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V 



FOR THE TERM OF HIS 
NATURAL LIFE. 



MARCUS CLARKE, 

author of 
"old tales of a young country,'' "holiday peak," etc. 




LONDON : 

RICHARD BENTLEY AND SON 

publishers in ©rcinarj) to ^)er ^ttajcstj) the (Queen. 



NOTE. 

This edition is especially issued by the Proprietors of the Copyright 
for circulation in the Australian Colonies only. 



PR 






Ft 



PREFACE. 



The convict of fiction has been hitherto shown only at the 
beginning- or at the end of. his career. Either his exile has 
been the mysterious end to his misdeeds, or he has appeared 
upon the scene to claim interest by reason of an equally un- 
intelligible love of crime acquired during his experience in a 
penal settlement. Charles Reade has drawn the interior of a 
house of correction in England, and Victor Hugo has shown 
how a French convict fares after the fulfilment of his sentence. 
But no writer — so far as I am aware — has attempted to depict 
the dismal condition of a felon during his term of trans- 
portation. 

I have endeavoured in " His Natural Life " to set forth the 
working and results of an English system of transportation 
carefully considered and carried out under official supervision; 
and to illustrate in the manner best calculated, as I think, to 
attract general attention, the inexpediency of again allowing 
offenders against the law to be herded together in places 
remote from the wholesome influence of public opinion, and to 
be submitted to a discipline which must necessarily depend 



iv PREFACE. 

for its just administration upon the personal character and 
temper of their gaolers. 

Some of the events narrated are doubtless tragic and 
terrible ; but I hold it needful to my purpose to record them, 
for they are events which have actually occurred, and which, 
if the blunders which produce them be repeated, must infallibly 
occur again. It is true that the British Government have 
ceased to deport the criminals of England, but the method of 
punishment, of which that deportation was a part, is still in 
existence. Port Blair is a Port Arthur filled with Indian-men 
instead of Englishmen ; and, within the last year, France has 
established, at New Caledonia, a penal settlement which will, 
in the natural course of things, repeat in its annals the history 
of Macquarie Harbour and of Norfolk Island. 

M. C. 

Melbourne, 
austhalia. 



CONTENTS. 



?AGE 

PREFACE iii 

PROLOGUE i 

BOOK I.— THE SEA. 1827. 

CHAP. 

I. THE PRISON SHIP H 

II. SARAH PURFOY - 18 

III. THE MONOTONY BRF.AKS 26 

IV. THE HOSPITAL 29 

V. THE BARRACOON 34 

VI. THE FATE OF THE " HYDASPES " - - - - 4° 

VII. TYPHUS FEVER 49 

VIII. A DANGEROUS CRISIS 57 

IX. WOMAN'S WEAPONS 64 

X. EIGHT BELLS 69 

XL DISCOVERIES AND CONFESSIONS - - - - 7& 

XII. A NEWSPAPER PARAGRAPH 8l 

BOOK II.— MACQUARIE HARBOUR. 1833. 

I. THE TOPOGRAPHY OF VAN DIEMEN'S LAND - - 82 

II. THE SOLITARY OF " HELL'S GATES " 85 

III. A SOCIAL EVENING 83 

IV. THE BOLTER --98 



vi CONTENTS. 

CHAP. TAGR 

V. SYLVIA -- I02 

VI. A LEAP IN THE DARK I05 

VII. THE LAST OF MACQUARIE HARBOUR - - - 112 

VIII. THE POWER OF THE WILDERNESS - - - 1 17 

IX. THE SEIZURE OF THE " OSrREY " - - - - 1 23 

X. JOHN REX'S REVENGE - - • - - - 1 29 

XL LEFT AT " HELL'S GATES" 135 

XII. "MR." DAWES 147 

XIII. WHAT THE SEAWEED SUGGESTED - - - 1 55 

XIV. A WONDERFUL DAY'S WORK - - - - 159 

XV. THE CORACLE - - -" - - - 1 67 

XVI. THE WRITING ON THE SAND - - - - 1 74 

XVII. AT SEA I78 

BOOK III.— PORT ARTHUR. 1S38. 

i. a labourer in the vineyard - - - - 1 85 
ii. sarah purfoy's request - - - - - 1 97 
iii. the story of two birds of prey ... 20j 
iv. "the notorious dawes" - - - - - 21 5 

v. maurice frere's good angel - 223 

vi. mr. meekin administers consolation - - 228 

vii. rufus dawes's idyll 233 

viii. an escape -------- 237 

ix. john rex's letter home 241 

x. what became of the mutineers of the 

"osprey" 250 

xl a relic of macquarie harbour ... 262 
xii. at port arthur - - - - . - 265 
xiii. the commandant's butler .... 269 
xiv. mr. north's indisposition .... 274 



CONTENTS. vii 

CHAP. PAGE 

XV. ONE HUNDRED LASHES - - - - - 282 

XVI. KICKING AGAINST THE PRICKS - - - 2S8 

XVII. CAPTAIN AND MRS. FRERE .... 292 

XVIII. IN THE HOSPITAL 296 

XIX. THE CONSOLATIONS OF RELIGION - - - 299 

XX. A NATURAL PENITENTIARY 303 

XXI. A VISIT OF INSPECTION 306 

XXII. GATHERING IN THE THREADS - - - - S\\ 

XXIII. RUNNING THE GAUNTLET - - s - - - 326 

XXIV. IN THE NIGHT ....... 332 

XXV. THE FLIGHT " 33S 

XXVI. THE WORK OF THE SEA 543 

XXVII. THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH - - 354 



BOOK IV.— NORFOLK ISLAND. 1846. 

I. EXTRACTED FROM THE DIARY OF THE REV. 

JAMES NORTH 36 1 

II. THE LOST HEIR 372 

III. EXTRACTED FROM THE DIARY OF THE REV. 

JAMES NORTH 3S2 

IV. EXTRACTED FROM THE DIARY OF THE REV. 

JAMES NORTH 390 

V. MR. RICHARD DEVINE SURPRISED - - - 394 

VI. IN WHICH THE CHAPLAIN IS TAKEN ILL - - 399 

VII. BREAKING A MAN'S SPIRIT 405 

VIII. EXTRACTED FROM THE DL4.RY OF THE REV. 

JAMES NORTH - - - - - . 409 

IX. THE LONGEST STRAW . ." . . . .413 

X. A MEETING - - - . . . -418 



viii CONTENTS. 

CHAP. PAGE 

XI. EXTRACTED FROM THE DIARY OF THE REV. 

JAMES NORTH 425 

XII. THE STRANGE BEHAVIOUR OF MR. NORTH - - 428 

XIII. MR. NORTH SPEAKS - - - - • . 433 

XIV. GETTING READY FOR SEA ----- 439 
XV. THE DISCOVERY 448 

XVI. FIFTEEN HOURS - - - - - - - 453 

XVII. THE REDEMPTION 456 

XVIII. THE CYCLONE 46 1 

EPILOGUE -.-- 467 

APPENDIX - 469 



HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



PROLOGUE. 



ON the evening of the 3rd of May, 1827, the garden of a 
large red-brick bow-windowed mansion called North- 
end House, which, enclosed in spacious grounds, stands 
on the eastern height of Hampstead Heath, between Finchley 
Road and the Chestnut Avenue, was the scene of a domestic 
Iragedy. 

Three persons were the actors in it. One was an old man, 
whose white hair and wrinkled face gave token that he was at 
least sixty years of age. He stood erect with his back to the 
wall which separates the garden from the Heath, in the attitude 
of one surprised into sudden passion, and held uplifted the 
heavy ebon cane, upon which he was ordinarily accustomed to 
lean. He was confronted by a man of two-and-twenty, un- 
usually tall and athletic of figure, dressed in rough seafaring 
clothes, and who held in his arms, protecting her, a lady of 
middle age. The face of the young man wore an expression 
of horror-stricken astonishment, and the slight frame of the 
grey-haired woman was convulsed with sobs. 

These three people were Sir Richard Devine, his wife, and 
his only son Richard, who had returned from abroad that 
morning. 

" So, madam," said Sir Richard, in the high-strung accents 
which in crises of great mental agony are common to the 
most self-restrained of us, " you have been for twenty years 



"1 



BIS NATURAL LIFE 



a living lie ! For twenty years you have cheated and mocked 
me. For twenty years — in company with a scoundrel whose 
name is a byword for all that is profligate and base — you have 
laughed at me for a credulous and hood-winked fool ; and now, 
because I dared to raise my hand to that reckless boy, you 
confess your shame, and glory in the confession ! " 

"Mother, dear mother!" cried the young man, in a paroxysm 
of grief, " say that you did not mean those words ; you said 
them but in anger ! See, I am calm now, and he may strike 
me if he will." 

Lady Devine shuddered, creeping close, as though to hide 
herself in the broad bosom of her son. 

The old man continued : " I married you, Ellinor Wade, for 
your beauty; you married me for my fortune, I was a plebeian, 
a ship's carpenter ; you were well born, your father was a man 
of fashion, a gambler, the friend of rakes and prodigals. I was 
rich. I had been knighted. I was in favour at Court. He 
wanted money, and he sold you. I paid the price he asked, 
but there was nothing of your cousin, my lord Bellasis and 
Wotton, in the bond." 

" Spare me, sir, spare me ! " said Lady Ellinor faintly. 

" Spare you ! Ay, you have spared me, have you not ? 
Lookye," he cried, in sudden fury, " I am not to be fooled so 
easily. Your family are proud. Colonel Wade has other 
daughters. Your lover, my lord Bellasis, even now, thinks 
to retrieve his broken fortunes by marriage. You have con- 
fessed your shame. To-morrow your father, your sisters, all 
the world, shall know the story you have told me ! " 

" By Heaven, sir, you will not do this ! " burst out the young 
man. 

" Silence, bastard!" cried Sir Richard. "Ay, bite your lips, 
the word is of your precious mother's making ! " 

Lady Devine slipped through her son's arms and fell on her 
knees at her husband's feet. » 

"Do not do this, Richard. I have been faithful to you for 
two-and-twenty years. I have borne a 1 ! the slights and insults 
you have heaped upon me. The shameful secret of my early 
love broke from me when, in your rage, you threatened him. 
Let me go away ; kill me ; but do not shame me." 

Sir Richard, who had turned to walk away, stopped suddenly 
and his great white eyebrows came together in his red face with 



PROLOGUE. 



a savage scowl. He laughed, and in that laugh his fury seemed 
to congeal into a cold and cruel hate. 

" You would preserve your good name then. You would 
congeal this disgrace from the world. You shall have your 
wish — upon one condition.'' 

"What is it, sir?" she asked, rising, but trembling with 
terror, as she stood with drooping arms and widely opened 
eyes. 

The old man looked at her for an instant, and then said 
slowly, — 

" That this impostor, who so long has falsely borne my 
name, has wrongfully squandered my money, and unlawfully 
eaten my bread, shall pack ! That he abandon for ever the 
name he has usurped ; keep himself from my sight, and never 
set foot again in house of mine." 

" You would not part me from my only son ! " cried the 
wretched woman. 

" Take him with you to his father then." 

Richard Uevine gently loosed the arms that again clung 
around his neck, kissed the pale face, and turned his own — 
scarcely less pale — towards the old man. 

" I owe you no duty," he said. " You have always hated 
and reviled me. When by your violence you drove me from 
your house, you set spies to watch me in the life I had chosen. 
I have nothing in common with you. I have long felt it. 
Now when I learn for the first time whose son I really am, I 
rejoice to think that I have less to thank you for than I once 
believed. I accept the terms you offer. I will go. Nay, 
mother, think of your good name." 

Sir Richard Dcvinc laughed again. "I am glad to sec you 
are so well disposed. Listen now. To-night I send for Quaid 
to alter my will. My sister's son, Maurice Frere, shall be my 
heir in your stead. I give you nothing. You leave this house 
in an hour. You change your name ; you never by word or 
deed make claim on me or mine. No matter what strait or 
poverty you plead— if even your life should hang upon the 
issue— the instant I hear that there exists on earth one who 
calls himself Richard Devine, that instant shall your mothers 
shame become a public scandal. You know me. I keep my 
word. I return in an hour, madam ; let me find him 
gone." 



HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



He passed them, upright, as if upborne by passion, strode 
down the garden with the vigour that anger lends, and took 
the road to London. 

" Richard ! " cried the poor mother. " Forgive me, my son ! 
I have ruined you." 

Richard Devine tossed his black hair from his brow in sudden 
passion of love and grief. 

" Mother, dear mother, do not weep," he said, " I am not 
worthy of your tears. Forgive ! It is I — impetuous and un- 
grateful during all your years of sorrow — who most need for- 
giveness. Let me share your burden that I may lighten it. 
He is just. It is fitting that I go. I can earn a name — a 
name that I need not blush to bear nor you to hear. I am 
strong. I can work. The world is wide. Farewell ! my own 
mother ! " 

" Not yet, not yet ! Ah ! see he has taken the Belsize road. 
Oh, Richard ! pray heaven they may not meet." 

" Tush ! They will not meet ! You are pale, you faint ! " 

"A terror of I know not what coming evil overpowers me. 
I tremble for the future. Oh, Richard, Richard ! forgive me I 
pray for me ! " 

" Hush, dearest ! Come, let me lead you in. I will write. 
I will send you news of me once at least, ere I depart. So — 
you are calmer, mother ! " 



Sir Richard Devine, knight, shipbuilder, naval contractor, 
and millionaire, was the son of a Harwich boat carpenter. 
F.arly left an orphan with a sister to support, he soon reduced 
his sole aim in life to the accumulation of money. In the 
Harwich boat-shed, nearly fifty years before, he had contracted. 
— in defiance of prophesied failure — to build the Hastings sloop 
of war for His Majesty King George the Third's Lords of the 
Admiralty. This contract was the thin end of that wedge 
which eventually split the mighty oak block of Government 
patronage into three-deckers, and ships of the line ; which 
did good service under Pellew, Parker, Nelson, Hood ; which 
exfoliated and ramified into huge dockyards at Plymouth, 
Portsmouth, and Sheerness, and bore, as its buds and flowers, 
countless barrels of measly pork and maggotty biscuit. The 
sole aim of the coarse, pushing, and hard-headed son of Dick 



PROLOGUE. 



Devine was to make money. He had cringed and crawled 
and fluttered and blustered, had licked the dust off great men's 
shoes, and danced attendance in great men's ante-chambers. 
Nothing was too low, nothing too high for him. A shrewd 
man of business, a thorough master of his trade, troubled with 
no scruples of honour or of delicacy, he made money rapidly, 
and saved it when made. The first hint that the public re- 
ceived of his wealth was in 1796, when Mr. Devine, one of the 
shipwrights to the Government, and a comparatively young 
man of forty-four or thereabouts, subscribed five thousand 
pounds to the Loyalty Loan raised to prosecute the French 
war. In 1805, after doing good, and it was hinted not un- 
profitable, service in the trial of Lord Melville, the Treasurer 
of the Navy, he married his sister to a wealthy Bristol merchant, 
one Anthony Frere, and married himself to Ellinor Wade, the 
eldest daughter of Colonel Wotton Wade, a boon companion 
of the Regent, and uncle by marriage of a remarkable scamp 
and dandy, Lord Bellasis. At that time, what with lucky 
speculations in the Funds — assisted, it was whispered, by secret 
intelligence from France during the stormy years of '13, '14, 
and '15 — and the legitimate profit on his Government contracts, 
he had accumulated a princely fortune, and could afford to live 
in princely magnificence. But the old-man-of-the-sea burden 
of parsimony and avarice which he had voluntarily taken upon 
him was not to be shaken off, and the only show he made of 
his wealth was by purchasing, on his knighthood, the ram- 
bling but comfortable house at Hampstead, and ostensibly 
retiring from active business. 

His retirement was not a happy one. He was a stern father 
and a severe master. His servants hated, and his wife feared 
him. His only son Richard appeared to inherit his father's 
strong will and imperious manner. Under careful supervision 
and a just rule he might have been guided to good ; but left 
to his own devices outside, and galled by the iron yoke of 
parental discipline at home, he became reckless and prodigal. 
The mother — ptoor, timid Ellinor, who had been rudely torn 
from the love of her youth, her cousin, Lord Bellasis — tried to 
restrain him, but the headstrong boy, though owning for his 
mother that strong love which is often a part of such violent 
natures, proved intractable, and after three years of parental 
feud, he went off to the Continent, to pursue there the same 



HIS NATURAI LIFE. 



reckless life which in London had offended Sir Richard. 
Sir Richard, upon this, sent for Maurice Frere, his sister's 
son — the abolition of the slave trade had ruined the Bristol 
House of Frere — and bought for him a commission in a 
marching regiment, hinting darkly of special favours to come. 
His open preference for his nephew had galled to the quick 
his sensitive wife, who contrasted with some heart-pangs the 
gallant prodigality of her father with the niggardly economy of 
her husband. Between the houses of parvenu Devine and 
long-descended Wotton Wade there had long been little love. 
Sir Richard felt that the Colonel despised him for a city-knight, 
and had heard that over claret and cards Lord Bellasis and 
his friends had often lamented the hard fortune which gave the 
beauty, Ellinor, to so sordid a bridegroom. Armigell Esmd 
Wade, Viscount Bellasis and Wotton, was a product of his 
time. Of good family (his ancestor, Armigell, was reputed 
to have landed in America before Gilbert or Raleigh), he had 
inherited his manor of Bellasis, or Belsize, from one Sir Esmd 
Wade, ambassador from Queen Elizabeth to the King of Spain 
in the delicate matter of Mendoza, and afterwards counsellor 
to James I., and lieutenant of the Tower. This Esmd was a 
man of dark devices. It was he who negotiated with Mary 
Stuart for Elizabeth ; it was he who wormed out of Cobham the 
evidence against the great Raleigh. He became rich, and his 
sister (the widow of Henry de Kirkhavcn, Lord of Hemfleet) 
marrying into the family of the Wottons, the wealth of the 
house was farther increased by the union of her daughter 
Sybil with Marmaduke Wade. Marmaduke Wade was a 
Lord of the Admiralty, and a patron of Pepys, who in his diary 
[July 17th, 1668] speaks of visiting him at Belsize. He was 
raised to the peerage in 1667 by the title of Baron Bellasis and 
Wotton, and married for his second wife Anne, daughter of 
Philip Stanhope, second Earl of Chesterfield. Allied to this 
powerful house, the family tree of Wotton Wade grew and 
llourishcd. 

In 1784, Philip, third Baron, married the celebrated beauty, 
Miss Povey, and had issue Armigell Esmd, in whose person 
the family prudence seemed to have run itself out. 

The fourth Lord Bellasis combined the daring of Armigell 
the adventurer, with the evil disposition of Esmd, the lieutenant 
of the Tower. No sooner had he become master of his fortune 



PROLOGUE. 



than he took to dice, drink, and debauchery with all the extrava- 
gance of the last century. He was foremost in every riot, most 
notorious of all the notorious " bloods " of the day. 

Horace Walpole, in one of his letters to Selwyn in 1785, 
mentions a fact which may stand for a page of narrative. 
"Young Wade," he says, "is reported to have lost one thou- 
sand guineas last night to that vulgarest of all the Bourbons, 
the Due de Chartres, and they say the fool is not yet nineteen." 
From a pigeon Armigell Wade became a hawk, and at thirty 
years of age, having lost together with his estates all chance of 
winning the one woman who might have saved him — his cousin 
Ellinor — he became that most unhappy of all beings, a well- 
born blackleg. When he was told by thin-lipped, cool Colonel 
Wade that the rich shipbuilder, Sir Richard Devine, had pro- 
posed an alliance with fair-haired gentle Ellinor, he swore, 
with fierce knitting of his black brows, that no law of man nor 
Heaven should further restrain him in his selfish prodigality. 
" You have sold your daughter and ruined me," he said, " look 
to the consequences." Colonel Wade sneered at his fiery 
kinsman : " You will find Sir Richard's house a pleasant one 
to visit, Armigell ; and he should be worth an income to so 
experienced a gambler as yourself." Lord Bellasis did visit at 
Sir Richard's house during the first year of his cousin's mar- 
riage ; but upon the birth of the son who is the hero of this 
history, he affected a quarrel with the city-knight, and cursing 
him to the Prince and Poins for a miserly curmudgeon, who 
neither diced nor drank like a gentleman, departed, more 
desperately at war with fortune than ever, for his old haunts. 
The year 1827 found him a hardened, hopeless old man of sixty, 
battered in health and ruined in pocket ; but who, by dint of 
stays, hair-dye, and courage, yet faced the world with undaunted 
front, and dined as gaily in bailiff-haunted Belsize as he had 
dined at Carlton House. Of the possessions of the house of 
W'utton Wade, this old manor, timbcrless and bare, was all that 
remained, and its master rarely visited it. 

On the evening of the 3rd May, 1827, Lord Bellasis had 
been attending a pigeon match at Hornsey Wood, and having 
resisted the importunities of his companion, Mr. Lionel Crofton 
(a young gentleman-rake, whose position in the sporting world 
was not the most secure), who wanted him to go on into town, 
he had avowed his intention of striking across Hampstead to 



8 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

Belsize. " I have an appointment at the Fir Trees on the 
Heath," he said. 

" With a woman ? " asked Mr. Crofton. 

" Not at all ; with a parson." 

" A parson ! " 

" You stare ! Well, he is only just ordained. I met him last 
year at Bath on his vacation from Cambridge, and he was good 
enough to lose some money to me." 

"And now waits to pay it out of his first curacy. I wish 
your lordship joy with all my soul. Then, we must push on, 
for it grows late." 

"Thanks, my dear sir, for the 'we,' but I must go alone," 
said Lord Bellasis, dryly. " To-morrow you can settle with me 
for the sitting of last week. Hark ! the clock is striking nine. 
Good-night." 

***** 

At half-past nine Richard Devine quitted his mother's house 
to begin the new life he had chosen, and so, drawn together 
by that strange fate of circumstance which creates events, the 
father and son approached each other. 

***** 

As the young man gained the middle of the path which led 
to the Heath, he met Sir Richard returning from the village. 
It was no part of his plan to seek an interview with the man 
whom his mother had so deeply wronged, and he would have 
slunk past in the gloom ; but seeing him thus alone returning to 
a desolated home, the prodigal was tempted to utter some words 
of farewell and of regret. To his astonishment, however, Sir 
Richard passed swiftly on, with body bent forward as one in 
the act of falling, and with eyes unconscious of surroundings, 
staring straight into the distance. Half-terrified at this strange 
appearance, Richard hurried onward, and at a turn of the path 
stumbled upon something which horribly accounted for the 
curious action of the old man. A dead body lay upon its face 
in the heather ; beside it was a heavy riding whip stained at the 
handle with blood, and an open pocket-book. Richard took up 
the book, and read, in gold letters on the cover, " Lord Bellasis." 

The unhappy young man knelt down beside the body and 
raised it The skull had been fractured by a blow, but it 
seemed that life yet lingered. Overcome with horror — for he 



PROLOGUE. 



could not doubt but that his mother's worst fears had been 
realized — Richard knelt there holding his murdered father in 
his arms, waiting until the murderer, whose name he bore, 
should have placed himself beyond pursuit. It seemed an 
hour to his excited fancy before he saw a light pass along the 
front of the house he had quitted, and knew that Sir Richard 
had safely reached his chamber. With some bewildered inten- 
tion of summoning aid, he left the body and made towards the 
town. As he stepped out on the path he heard voices, and 
presently some dozen men, one of whom held a horse, burst out 
upon him, and, with sudden fury, seized and flung him to the 
ground. 

At first the young man, so rudely assailed, did not compre- 
hend his own danger. His mind, bent upon one hideous 
explanation of the crime, did not see another obvious one which 
had already occurred to the mind of the landlord of the Three 
Spaniards. 

" God defend me ! " cried Mr. Mogford, scanning by the 
pale light of the rising moon the features of the murdered man, 
"but it is Lord Bellasis ! — oh, you bloody villain ! Jem, bring 
him along here, p'r'aps his lordship can recognize him ! " 

"It was not I !" cried Richard Devine. " P'or God's sake, 

my lord, say " then he stopped abruptly, and being forced 

on his knees by his captors, remained staring at the dying man, 
in sudden and ghastly fear. 

Those men in whom emotion has the effect of quickening 
circulation of the blood reason rapidly in moments of danger, 
and in the terrible instant when his eyes met those of Lord 
Bellasis, Richard Devine had summed up the chances of his 
future fortune, and realized to the full his personal peril. The 
runaway horse had given the alarm. The drinkers at the 
Spaniards' Inn had started to search the Heath, and had dis- 
covered a fellow in rough costume, whose person was unknown 
to them, hastily quitting a spot where, beside a rifled pocket- 
book and a blood-stained whip, lay a dying man. 

The web of circumstantial evidence had enmeshed him. An 
hour ago escape would have been easy. He would have had 
but to cry, " I am the son of Sir Richard Devine. Come with 
me to yonder house, and I will prove to you that I have but 
just quitted it," — to place his innocence beyond immediate 
question. That course of action was impossible now. Know- 



HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



ing Sir Richard as he did, and believing, moreover, that in his 
raging passion the old man had himself met and murdered the 
destroyer of his honour, the son of Lord Bellasis and Lady 
Devine saw himself in a position which would compel him 
either to sacrifice himself, or to purchase a chance of safety at 
the price of his mother's dishonour and the death of the man 
whom his mother had deceived. If the outcast son were 
brought a prisoner to North-End House, Sir Richard— now 
doubly oppressed of fate — would be certain to deny him ;- and 
he would be compelled, in self-defence, to reveal a story which 
would at once bring his mother to open infamy, and send to 
the gallows the man who had been for twenty years deceived— 
the man to whose kindness he owed education and former 
fortune. He knelt, stupefied, unable to speak or move. 

" Come," cried Mogford again ; " say, my lord, is this the 
villain?" 

Lord Bellasis rallied his failing senses, his glazing eyes stared 
into his son's face with horrible eagerness ; he shook his head, 
raised a feeble arm as though to point elsewhere, and fell back 
dead. 

" If you didn't murder him, you robbed him," growled 
Mogford, " and you shall sleep at Bow-street to-night. Tom, 
run on to meet the patrol, and tell him to leave word at the 
Gate-house that I've a passenger for the coach ! — Bring him 
on, Jack ! — What's your name, eh ? " 

He repeated the rough question twice before his prisoner 
answered, but at length Richard Devine raised a pale face 
which stern resolution had already hardened into defiant man- 
hood, and said, " Dawes — Rufus Dawes." 

***** 

His new life had begun already : for that night one, Rufus 
Dawes, charged with murder and robbery, lay awake in prison, 
waiting for the fortune of the morrow. 

Two other men waited as eagerly. One, Mr. Lionel Crofton ; 
the other, the horseman who had appointment with the mur- 
dered Lord Bellasis under the shadow of the fir trees on 
Hampstead Heath. As for Sir Richard Devine, he waited for 
no one," for upon reaching his room he had fallen senseless in 
a fit of apoplexy. 



BOOK I. 



CHAPTER I. 



THE PRISON SHIP. 

IN the breathless stillness of a tropical afternoon, when the 
air was hot and heavy, and the sky brazen and cloudless, 
the shadow of the Malabar lay solitary on the surface of 
the glittering sea. 

The sun— who rose on the left hand every morning a blazing 
ball, to move slowly through the unbearable blue, until he sank 
fiery red in mingling glories of sky and ocean on the right 
hand— had just got low enough to peep beneath the awning 
that covered the poop deck, and awaken a young man, in an 
undress military uniform, who was dozing on a coil of rope. 

" Hang it ! " said he, rising and stretching himself, with 
the weary sigh of a man who has nothing to do, " I must have 
been asleep ; " and then holding by a stay, he turned about 
and looked down into the waist of the ship. 

Save for the man at the wheel and the guard at the quarter- 
railing, he was alone on the deck. A few birds flew round 
about the vessel, and seemed to pass under her stern windows 
only to appear again at her bows. A lazy albatross, with the 
white water flashing from his wings, rose with a dabbling 
sound to leeward, and in the place where he had been, glided 
the hideous firf of a silently-swimming shark. The seams of 
the well-scrubbed deck were sticky with melted pitch, and the 
brass plate of the compass-case sparkled in the sun like a 



HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



jewel. There was no breeze, and as the clumsy ship rolled 
and lurched on the heaving sea, her idle sails napped againr.t 
her masts with a regularly recurring noise, and her bowsprit 
would seem to rise higher with the water's swell, to dip again 
with a jerk that made each rope tremble and tauten. On the 
forecastle, some half-dozen soldiers, in all varieties of undress, 
were playing at cards, smoking, or watching the fishing-lines 
hanging over the catheads. 

So far the appearance of the vessel differed in nowise from 
that of an ordinary transport. But in the waist a curious sight 
presented itself. It was as though one had built a cattle-pen 
there. At the foot of the foremast, and at the quarter-deck, 
a strong barricade, loop-holed and furnished with doors for 
ingress and egress, ran across the deck from bulwark to bul- 
wark. Outside this cattle-pen an armed sentry stood on guard ; 
inside, standing, sitting, or walking monotonously, within range 
of the shining barrels in the arm chest on the poop, were some 
sixty men and boys, dressed in uniform grey. The men and 
boys were prisoners of the Crown, and the cattle-pen was their 
exercise ground. Their prison was down the main hatchway, 
on the 'tween decks, and the barricade, continued down, made 
its side walls. 

It was the fag end of the two hours' exercise graciously per- 
mitted each afternoon by His Majesty King George the Fourth 
to prisoners of the Crown, and the prisoners of the Crown were 
enjoying themselves. It was not, perhaps, so pleasant as under 
the awning on the poop-deck, but that sacred shade was only 
for such great men as the captain and his officers, Surgeon 
Pine, Lieutenant Maurice Frere, and, most important personages 
of all, Captain Vickers and his wife. 

That the convict leaning against the bulwarks would like to 
have been able to get rid of his enemy the sun for a moment, 
was probable enough. His companions, sitting on the combings 
of the mainhatch, -or crouched in careless fashion on the shady 
side of the barricade, were laughing and talking, with blasphe- 
mous and obscene merriment hideous to contemplate ; but he, 
with cap pulled over his brows, and hands thrust into the 
pockets of his coarse grey garments, held aloof from their 
dismal joviality. 

The sun poured his hottest rays on his head unheeded, and 
though every cranny and seam in the deck sweltered hot pitch 



THE PRISON SHIP. 13 

under the fierce heat, the man stood there, motionless and 
morose, staring at the sleepy sea. He had stood thus, in one 
place or another, ever since the groaning vessel had escaped 
from the rollers of the Bay of Biscay, and the miserable 
hundred and eighty creatures among whom he was classed 
had been freed from their irons, and allowed to sniff fresh air 
twice a day. 

The low-browed, coarse-featured ruffians grouped about the 
deck cast many a leer of contempt at the solitary figure, but 
their remarks were confined to gestures only. There are 
degrees in crime, and Rufus Dawes, the convicted felon, who 
had but escaped the gallows to toil for all his life in irons, was 
a man of mark. He had been tried for the robbery and murder 
of Lord Bellasis. The friendless vagabond's lame story of 
finding on the heath a dying man would not have availed him, 
but for the curious fact sworn to by the landlord of the 
Spaniards' Inn, that the murdered nobleman had shaken his 
head when asked if the prisoner was his assassin. The vaga- 
bond was acquitted of the murder, but condemned to death 
for the robbery, and London, who took some interest in the 
trial, considered him fortunate when his sentence was commuted 
to transportation for life. 

It was customary on board these floating prisons to keep 
each man's crime a secret from his fellows, so that if he chose, 
and the caprice of his jailers allowed him, he could lead a new 
life in his adopted home, without being taunted with his former 
misdeeds. But, like other excellent devices, the expedient was 
only a nominal one, and few out of the doomed hundred and 
eighty were ignorant of the offence which their companions 
had committed. The more guilty boasted of their superiority 
in vice ; the petty criminals swore that their guilt was blacker 
than it appeared. Moreover, a deed so bloodthirsty and a 
respite so unexpected, had invested the name of Rufus Dawes 
with a grim distinction, which his superior mental abilities, no 
less than his haughty temper and powerful frame, combined 
to support. A young man of two-and-twenty owning to no 
friends, and existing among them but by the fact of his crimi- 
nality, he was respected and admired. The vilest of all the vile 
horde penned between decks, if they laughed at his " fine airs " 
behind his back, cringed and submitted when they met him 
face to face — for in a convict ship the greatest villain is the 



14 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

greatest hero, and the only nobility acknowledged by that 
hideous commonwealth is that Order of the Halter which is 
conferred by the hand of the hangman. 

The young man on the poop caught sight of the tall figure 
leaning against the bulwarks, and it gave him an excuse to 
break the monotony of his employment. 

"Here, you!" he called out, with an oath, "get out of the 
gangway ! " 

Rufus Dawes was not in the gangway — was, in fact, a good 
two feet from it, but at the sound of Lieutenant Frere's voice 
he started, and went obediently towards the hatchway. 

" Touch your hat, you dog ! " cries Frere, coming to the 
quarter railing. " Touch your damned hat ! Do you hear ? " 

Rufus Dawes touched his cap, saluting in half military 
fashion. 

" I'll make some of you fellows smart, if you don't have a 
care," went on the angry Frere, half to himself, and half aloud. 
" Insolent blackguards ! " 

And then the noise of the sentry, on the quarter deck below 
him, grounding arms, turned the current of his thought*. A 
thin, tall, soldier-like man, with a cold blue eye, and prim 
features, came out of the cuddy below, handing out a fair- 
haired, affected, mincing lady, of middle age. Captain Vickers 
of Mr. Frere's regiment, ordered for service in Van Diemen's 
Land, was bringing his lady on deck to get an appetite for 
dinner. 

Mrs. Vickers was forty-two (she owned to thirty-three), and 
had been a garrison-/v//i? for eleven weary years before she 
married prim John Vickers. The marriage was not a happy 
one. Vickers found his wife extravagant, vain, and snappish, 
and she found him harsh, disenchanted, and commonplace. 
A daughter, born two years after their marriage, was the only 
link that bound the ill-assorted pair. Vickers idolized little 
Sylvia, and when the recommendation of a long sea-voyage for 
his failing health induced him to exchange into the — th, he 
insisted upon bringing the child with him, despite Mrs. Vickers's 
reiterated objections on the score of educational difficulties, 
"lie could educate her himself, if need be," he said; "and 
she should not stay at home." 

So Mrs. Vickers, after a hard struggle, gave up the point and 
her dreams of Bath together, and followed her husband with 



THE PRISON SHIP. 15 



the best grace she could muster. When fairly out to sea she 
seemed reconciled to her fate, and employed the intervals 
between scolding her daughter and her maid, in fascinating 
the boorish young Lieutenant, Maurice Frere. 

Fascination was an integral portion of Julia Vickers's nature ; 
admiration was all she lived for : and even in a convict ship, 
with her husband at her elbow, she must flirt, or perish of 
mental inanition. There was no harm in the creature. She was 
simply a vain, middle-aged woman, and Frere took her atten- 
tions for what they were worth. Moreover, her good feeling 
towards him was useful, for reasons which will shortly appear. 

Running down the ladder, cap in hand, he offered her his 
assistance. 

" Thank you, Mr. Frere. These horrid ladders. I really 
— he, he— quite tremble at them. Hot ! Yes, dear me, most 
oppressive. John, the camp-stool. Pray, Mr. Frere— oh, 
thank you ! Sylvia ! Sylvia ! John, have you my smelling 
salts ? Still a calm, I suppose ? These dreadful calms ! " 

This semi-fashionable slip-slop, within twenty yards of the 
wild beasts' den, on the other side of the barricade, sounded 
strange ; but Mr. Frere thought nothing of it. Familiarity de- 
stroys terror, and the incurable flirt fluttered her muslins, and 
played off her second-rate graces, under the noses of the 
grinning convicts, with as much complacency as if she had 
been in a Chatham ball-room. Indeed, if there had been 
nobody else near, it is not unlikely that she would have 
disdainfully fascinated the 'twecn-decks, and made eyes at the 
most presentable of the convicts there. 

Vickers, with a bow to Frere, saw his wife up the ladder, and 
then turned for his daughter. 

She was a delicate-looking child of six years old, with blue 
eyes and bright hair. Though indulged by her father, and 
spoiled by her mother, the natural sweetness of her disposition 
saved her from being disagreeable, and the effects of her 
education as yet only showed themselves in a thousand im- 
perious prettinesses, which made her the darling of the ship. 
Little Miss Sylvia was privileged to go anywhere and do 
anything, and even convictism shut its foul mouth in her 
presence. Running to her father's side, the child chattered 
with all the volubility of flattered self-esteem. She ran hither 
and thither, asked questions, invented answers, laughed, sang, 



1 6 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



gambolled, peered into the compass-case, felt in the pockets 
of the man at the helm, put her tiny hand into the big palm of 
the officer of the watch, even ran down to the quarter-deck and 
pulled the coat-tails of the sentry on duty. 

At last, tired of running about, she took a little striped leather 
ball from the bosom of her frock, and calling to her father, 
threw it up to him as he stood on the poop. He returned it, 
and, shouting with laughter, clapping her hands between each 
throw, the child kept up the game. 

The convicts — whose slice of fresh air was nearly eaten — 
turned with eagerness to watch this new source of amusement. 
Innocent laughter and childish prattle were strange to them. 
Some smiled, and nodded with interest in the varying fortunes 
of the game. One young lad could hardly restrain himself from 
applauding. It was as though, out of the sultry heat which 
brooded over the ship, a cool breeze had suddenly arisen. 

In the midst of this mirth, the officer of the watch, glancing 
round the fast crimsoning horizon, paused abruptly, and shading 
his eyes with his hand, looked out intently to the westward. 

Frere, who found Mrs. Vickers's conversation a little tiresome, 
and had been glancing from time to time at the companion, as 
though in expectation of some one appearing, noticed the 
action. 

" What is it, Mr. Best ? " 

"I don't know exactly. It looks to me like a cloud of 
smoke." 

And, taking the glass, he swept the horizon. 

" Let me see," said Frere ; and he looked also. 

On the extreme horizon, just to the left of the sinking sun, 
rested, or seemed to rest, a tiny black cloud. The gold and 
crimson, splashed all about the sky, had overflowed around it, 
and rendered a clear view almost impossible. 

" I can't quite make it out," says Frere, handing back the 
telescope. " We can see as soon as the sun goes down a 
little." 

Then Mrs. Vickers must, of course, look also, and was 
prettily affected about the focus of the glass, applying herself to 
that instrument with much girlish giggling, and finally declaring, 
after shutting one eye with her fair hand, that " positively she 
could see nothing but sky, and believed that wicked Mr. Frere 
was doing it on purpose." 



THE PRISON SHIP. 17 

By-and-by, Captain Blunt appeared, and, taking the glass 
from his officer, looked through it long and carefully. Then 
the mizen-top was appealed to, and declared that he could see 
nothing ; and at last the sun went down with a jerk, as though 
it had slipped through a slit in the sea, and the black spot, 
swallowed up in the gathering haze, was seen no more. 

As the sun sank, the relief guard came up the after hatchway, 
and the relieved guard prepared to superintend the descent of 
the convicts. At this moment Sylvia missed her ball, which, 
taking advantage of a sudden lurch of the vessel, hopped over 
the barricade, and rolled to the feet of Rufus Dawes, who was 
still leaning, apparently lost in thought, against the side. 

The bright spot of colour rolling across the white deck caught 
his eye ; stooping mechanically, he picked up the ball, and 
stepped forward to return it. The door of the barricade was 
open, and the sentry — a young soldier, occupied in staring at 
the relief guard — did not notice the prisoner pass through it. 
In another instant he was on the sacred quarter-deck. 

Heated with the game, her cheeks aglow, her eyes sparkling, 
her golden hair afloat, Sylvia had turned to leap after her play- 
thing, but even as she turned, from under the shadow of the 
cuddy glided a rounded white arm ; and a shapely hand caught 
the child by the sash and drew her back. The next moment 
the young man in grey had placed the toy in her hand. 

Maurice Frere, descending the poop ladder, had not wit- 
nessed this little incident ; on reaching the deck, he saw only 
the unexplained presence of the convict uniform. 

" Thank you," said a voice, as Rufus Dawes stooped before 
the pouting Sylvia. 

The convict raised his eyes and saw a young girl of eighteen 
or nineteen years of age, tall, and well developed, who, dressed 
in a loose-sleeved robe of some white material, was standing in 
the doorway. She had black hair, coiled around a narrow and 
flat head, a small foot, white skin, well-shaped hands, and large 
dark eyes, and as she smiled at him, her scarlet lips showed her 
white even teeth. 

lie knew her at once. She was Sarah Purfoy, Mrs. Vickers's 
maid, but he never had been so close to her before ; and it 
seemed to him that he was in the presence of some strange 
tropical flower, which exhaled a heavy and intoxicating per- 
fume. 

2 



iS HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



For an instant the two looked at each other, and then Rufus 
Dawes was seized from behind by his collar, and flung with a 
shock upon the deck. 

Leaping to his feet, his first impulse was to rush upon his 
assailant, but he saw the ready bayonet of the sentry gleam, 
and he checked himself with an effort, for his assailant was 
Mr. Maurice Frere. 

" What the devil do you do here ? " asked that gentleman with 
an oath. " You lazy skulking hound, what brings you here ? If 
I catch you putting your foot on the quarter-deck again, I'll give 
you a week in irons ! " 

Rufus Dawes, pale with rage and mortification, opened his 
mouth to justify himself, but he allowed the words to die on his 
lips. What was the use ? 

" Go down below, and remember what I've told you," cried 
Frere ; and comprehending at once what had occurred, he made 
a mental minute of the name of the defaulting sentry. 

The convict, wiping the blood from his face, turned on his 
heel without a word, and went back through the strong oak 
door into his den. 

Frere leant forward and took the girl's shapely hand with an 
easy gesture, but she drew it away, with a flash of her black 
eyes. 

" You coward ! " she said. 

The stolid soldier close beside them heard it, and his eye 
twinkled. Frere bit his thick lips with mortification, as he 
followed the girl into the cuddy. Sarah Purfoy, however, 
taking the astonished Sylvia by the hand, glided into her 
mistress's cabin with a scornful laugh, and- shut the door 
behind her. 



CHAPTER II. 

SARAH PURFOY. 



CONVICTISM having been safely got under hatches, and 
put to bed in its government allowance of sixteen inches 
of space per man, cut a little short by exigencies of ship- 
board, the cuddy was wont to pass some not unpleasant evenings. 



SARAH PURfOY. 19 



Mrs. Vickers, who was poetical and owned a guitar, was also 
musical and sang to it. Captain Blunt was a jovial, coarse 
fellow, Surgeon Pine had a mania for story-telling, while if 
Vickers was sometimes dull, Frere was always hearty. More- 
over, the table was well served, and what with dinner, tobacco, 
whist, music, and brandy-and-water, the sultry evenings passed 
away with a rapidity of which the wild beasts 'tween decks, 
cooped by sixes in berths of five feet three inches, had no 
conception. 

On this particular evening, however, the cuddy was dull. 
Dinner fell flat, and conversation languished. 

" No signs of a breeze, Mr. Best ? " asked Blunt, as the first 
officer came in and took his seat. 

" None, sir." 

" These— he he !— awful calms," says Mrs. Vickers . " A 
week, is it not, Captain Blunt?" 

" Thirteen days, mum," growled Blunt. 

" I remember, off the Coromandel Coast," put in cheerful 
Pine, "when we had the plague in the Rattlesnake " 

" Captain Vickers, another glass of wine ? " cries Blunt, 
hastening to cut the anecdote short. 

" Thank you, no more. I have the headache." 

" Headache — urn— don't wonder at it, going down among 
those fellows. It is infamous the way they crowd these ships. 
Here we have over two hundred souls on board, and not boat 
room for half of 'em." 

"Two hundred souls! Surely not," says Vickers. . "By 
the King's Regulations " 

" One hundred and eighty convicts, fifty soldiers, thirty in 
ship's crew, all told, and — how many ? — one, two, three — seven 
in the cuddy. How many do you make that ?" 

" We are just a little crowded this time,'' says Best. 

" It is very wrong," says Vickers, pompously. " Very wrong. 
By the King's Regulations " 

But the subject of the King's Regulations was even more 
distasteful to the cuddy than Pine's interminable anecdotes, 
and Mrs. Vickers hastened to change the subject. 

"Are you not heartily tired of this dreadful life, Mr. Frere?" 

" Well, it is not exactly the life I had hoped to lead," said 
Frere, rubbing a freckled hand over his stubborn red hair ; 
"but I must make the best of it." 



HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



" Yes, indeed," said the lady, in that subdued manner with 
which one comments upon a well-known accident, "it must 
have been a great shock to you to be so suddenly deprived of 
so large a fortune." 

" Not only that, but to find that the black sheep who got it 
all, sailed for India within a week of my uncle's death ! Lady 
Devine got a letter from him on the day of the funeral to say 
that he had taken his passage in the Hydaspes for Calcutta, 
and never meant to come back again ! " 

" Sir Richard Devine left no other children ? " 

" No, only this mysterious Dick, whom I never saw, but who 
must have hated me." 

" Dear, dear ! These family quarrels are dreadful things. 
Poor Lady Devine to lose in one day a husband and a 
son ! " 

" And the next morning to hear of the murder of her cousin ! 
You know that we are connected with the Bellasis family. My 
aunt's father married a sister of the second Lord Bellasis." 

" Indeed. That was a horrible murder. So you think that 
the dreadful man you pointed out the other day, did it ? " 

"The jury seemed to think not," said Mr. Frere, with a 
laugh ; " but I don't know anybody else who could have a 
motive for it. However, I'll go on deck and have a smoke." 

" I wonder what induced that old hunks of a shipbuilder to 
try to cut off his only son in favour of a cub of that sort," 
said Surgeon Pine to Captain Vickers as the broad back of 
Mr. Maurice Frere disappeared up the companion. 

" Some boyish follies abroad, I believe ; self-made men are 
always impatient of extravagance. But it is hard upon Frere. 
He is not a bad sort of fellow for all his roughness, and when 
a young man finds that an accident deprives him of a quarter 
of a million of money and leaves him without a sixpence 
beyond his commission in a marching regiment under orders 
for a convict settlement, he has some reason to rail against 
fate." 

" How was it that the son came in for the money after all, 
then ? " 

" Why it seems that when old Devine returned from sending 
for his lawyer to alter his will, he got a fit of apoplexy, the 
result of his rage, I suppose, and when they opened his room 
door in the morning they found him dead." 



SARAH PURFOY. 



"And the son's away on the sea somewhere," said Mr. 
Vickcrs, "and knows nothing of his good fortune. It is quite 
a romance." 

" I am glad that Frere did not get the money," said Pine, 
grimly sticking to his prejudice ; " I have seldom seen a face 
I liked less, even among my yellow jackets yonder." 

"Oh dear, Dr. Pine! How can you?" interjected Mrs. 
Vickers. 

" Ton my soul, ma'am, some of them have mixed in good 
society, I can tell you. There's pickpockets and swindlers 
down below who have lived in the best company." 

" Dreadful wretches ! " cried Mrs. Vickers, shaking out her 
skirts. "John, I will go on deck." 

At the signal, the party rose. 

" Ecod, Pine," says Captain Blunt, as the two were left 
alone together, " you and I are always putting our foot into 
it!" 

" Women are always in the way aboard ship," returned 
Pine. 

" Ah ! doctor, you don't mean that, I know," said a rich soft 
voice at his elbow. 

It was Sarah Purfoy emerging from her cabin. 

" Here is the wench ! " cries Blunt. " We were talking of 
your eyes, my dear." 

"Well, they'll bear talking about, captain, won't they?" 
asked she, turning them full upon him. 

"By the Lord, they will !" says Blunt, smacking his hand on 
the table. " They're the finest eyes I've seen in my life, and 
they've got the reddest lips under 'm that " 

" Let me pass, Captain Blunt, if you please. Thank you, 
doctor." 

And before the admiring commander could prevent her, she 
modestly swept out of the cuddy. 

"She's a fine piece of goods, eh?" asked Blunt, watching 
her. " A spice o' the devil in her, too." 

Old Pine took a huge pinch of snuff. 

"Devil ! I tell you what it is, Blunt, I don't know where 
Vickcrs picked her up, but I'd rather trust my life with the 
worst of those ruffians 'tween decks, than in her keeping, if I'd 
done her an injury." 

Blunt lau-'hcd. 



JUS NATURAL LIFE. 



" I don't believe she'd think much of sticking a man, either ! " 
he said rising. " But I must go on deck, doctor." 

Pine followed him more slowly. " I don't pretend to know 
much about women," he said to himself, " but that girl's got a 
story of her own, or I'm much mistaken. What brings her on 
board this ship as lady's maid is more than I can fathom." 
And as, sticking his pipe between his teeth, he walked down 
the now deserted deck to the main hatchway, and turned to 
watch the white figure gliding up and down the poop deck, he 
saw it joined by another and a darker one, he muttered, " She's 
after no good, I'll swear." 

At that moment his arm was touched by a soldier in undress 
uniform, who had come up the hatchway. 

"What is it?" 

The man drew himself up and saluted. 

" If you plase, doctor, one of the prisoners is taken sick, and 
as the dinner's over, and he's pretty bad, I ventured to disturb 
your honour." 

"You ass!" says Pine— who, like many gruff men, had a 
good heart under his rough shell— "why didn't you tell me 
before ? " and knocking the ashes out of his barely-lighted pipe, 
he stopped that implement with a twist of paper and followed 
his summoner down the hatchway. 

In the meantime the woman who was the object of the grim 
old fellow's suspicions was enjoying the comparative coolness of 
the night air. Her mistress and her mistress's daughter had 
not yet come out of their cabin, and the men had not yet 
finished their evening's tobacco. The awning had been re- 
moved, the stars were shining in the moonless sky, the poop 
guard had shifted itself to the quarter-deck, and Miss Sarah 
Purfoy was walking up and down the deserted poop, in close 
tcte-d-tete with no less a person than Captain Blunt himself. 
She had passed and repassed him twice silently, and at the 
third turn, the big fellow, peering into the twilight ahead some- 
what uneasily, obeyed the glitter of her great eyes, and joined her. 

" You weren't put out, my wench," he asked, "at what I said 
to you below ? " 

She affected surprise. 

" What do you mean ? w 

"Why, at my— at what I— at my rudeness, there I For I 
was a bit rude, I admit." 



SARAH PURFOY. 23 



" I ? O dear, no. You were not rude." 

" Glad you think so !" returned Phineas Blunt, a little ashamed 
at what looked like a confession of weakness on his part. 

" You would have been — if I had let you." 

"How do you know ? " 

" I saw it in your face. Do you think a woman can't see in 
a man's face when he's going to insult her ?" 

" Insult you, hey ! Upon my word ! " 

"Yes, insult me. You're old enough to be my father, Captain 
Blunt, but you've no right to kiss me, unless I ask you." 

"Haw, haw!" laughed Blunt. "I like that. Ask me! 
Egad I wish you would, you black-eyed minx 1 " 

" So would other people, I have no doubt." 

"That soldier officer for instance. Hey, Miss Modesty? 
I've seen him looking at you as though he'd like to try." 

The girl flashed at him with a quick side glance. 

"You mean Lieutenant Frere, I suppose. Are you jealous 
of him ? " 

"Jealous! Why, damme, the lad was only breeched the 
other day. Jealous ! " 

" I think you are — and you've no need to be. He is a stupid 
booby, though he is Lieutenant Frere." 

" So he is. You are right there, by the Lord." 

Sarah Purfoy laughed a low, full-toned laugh, whose sound 
made Blunt's pulse take a jump forward, and sent the blood 
tingling down to his fingers' ends. 

"Captain Blunt," said she, "you're going to do a very silly 
thing." 

He came close to her and tried to take her hand. 

"What?" 

She answered by another question. 

" How old arc you ? " 

" Forty-two, if you must know." 

" Oh ! And you are going to fall in love with a girl of 
nineteen." 

"Who is that?" 

" Myself ! " she said, giving him her hand and smiling at him 
with her rich red lips. 

The mizen hid them from the man at the wheel, and the 
twilight of tropical stars held the main deck. Blunt felt the 
breath of this strange woman warm on his cheek, her eyes 



24 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

seemed to wax and wane, and the hard, small hand he held 
burnt like fire. 

" I believe you are right," he cried, " I am half in love with 
you already." 

She gazed at him with a contemptuous sinking of her heavily 
fringed eyelids, and withdrew her hand. 

" Then don't get to the other half, or you'll regret it." 

"Shall I?" asked Blunt. "That's my affair. Come, you 
little vixen, give me that kiss you said I was going to ask you 
for below," and he caught her in his arms. 

In an instant she had twisted herself free, and confronted him 
with flashing eyes. 

"•You dare ! " she cried. " Kiss me by force ! Pooh ! you 
make love like a schoolboy. If you can make me like you, I'll 
kiss you as often as you will. If you can't, keep your distance, 
please." 

Blunt did not know whether to laugh or be angry at this 
rebuff. He was conscious that he was in rather a ridiculous 
position, and so decided to laugh. 

" You're a spit-fire, too. What must I do to make you like me ? " 

She made him a curtsey. 

" That is your affair," she said ; and as the head of Mr. 
Frere appeared above the companion, Blunt walked aft, feeling 
considerably bewildered, and yet not displeased. 

"She's a fine girl, by jingo," he said, cocking his cap, "and 
I'm hanged if she ain't sweet upon me." 

And then the old fellow began to whistle softly to himself as 
he paced the deck, and to glance towards the man who had 
taken his place with no friendly eyes. But a sort of shame 
held him as yet, and he kept aloof. 

Maurice Frere's greeting was short enough. 

" Well, Sarah," he said, — " have you got out of your temper ? " 

She frowned. 

"What did you strike the man for? He did you no harm." 

" He was out of his place. What business had he to come 
aft ? One must keep these wretches down, my girl." 

"Or they will be too much for you, eh? Do you think one 
man could capture a ship, Mr. Maurice?" 

" No, but one hundred might." 

" Nonsense ! What could they do against the soldiers ? 
There are fifty soldiers." 



SARAH PURFOY. 25 



" So there are, but " 

" But what ? " 

" Well, never mind. It's against the rules, and I won't 
have it." 

" ' Not according to the King's Regulations,' as Captain 
Vickers would say." 

Frere laughed at her imitation of his pompous captain. 

" You are a strange girl ; I can't make you out. Come," and 
he took her hand, " tell me what you are really ? " 

" Will you promise not to tell ? " 

" Of course." 

" Upon your word ? " 

" Upon my word." 

"Well, then— but you'll tell?" 

" Not I. Come, go on." 

" Lady's-maid in the family of a gentleman going abroad.** 

" Sarah, can't you be serious ?" 

" I am serious. That was the advertisement I answered." 

" But I mean what you have been. You were not a lady's- 
maid all your life ? " 

She pulled her shawl closer round her and shivered. 

" People are not born ladies' maids, I suppose? " 

" Well, who are you, then ? Have you no friends ? What 
have you been ? " 

She looked up into the young man's face — a little less harsh 
at that moment than it was wont to be — and creeping closer to 
him, whispered, — 

"Do you love me, Maurice ? " 

He raised one of the little hands that rested on the taffrail, 
and, under cover of the darkness, kissed it. 

"You know I do," he said. "You may be a lady's-maid or 
what you like, but you are the loveliest woman I ever met." 

She smiled at his vehemence. 
" Then, if you love me, what does it matter ? " 
" If you loved me, you would tell me," said he, with a quick- 
ness which surprised himself. 

" But I have nothing to tell, and I don't love you — yet." 
He let her hand fall with an impatient gesture ; and at that 
moment Blunt— who could restrain himself no longer — came 
up. 

" Fine night, Mr. Frere 1 " 



26 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

"Yes, fine enough." 

" No signs of a breeze yet ; though." 

" No, not yet." 

Just then, from out of the violet haze that hung over the 
horizon, a strange glow of light broke. 

" Hallo ! " cries Frere, " did you see that ? " 

All had seen it, but they looked for its repetition in vain. 

Blunt rubbed his eyes. 

" I saw it," he said, " distinctly. A flash of light." 

They strained their eyes to pierce through the obscurity. 

" Best saw something like it before dinner. There must be 
thunder in the air." 

At that instant a thin streak of light shot up and then sank 
again. 

Thei-e was no mistaking it this time, and a simultaneous 
exclamation burst from all on deck. From out the gloom 
which hung over the horizon rose a column of flame that 
lighted up the night for an instant, and then sunk, leaving a 
dull red spark upon the water. 

" It's a ship on fire ! " cried Frere. 



CHAPTER III. 

THE MONOTONY BREAKS. 



THEY looked again, the tiny spark still burned, and imme- 
diately over it there grew out of the darkness a crimson 
spot, that hung like a lurid star in the air. The 
soldiers and sailors on the forecastle had seen it also, and in 
a moment the whole vessel was astir. Mrs. Vickcrs, with little 
Sylvia clinging to her dress, came up to share the new sensa- 
tion ; and at the sight of her mistress, the modest maid with- 
drew discreetly from Frere's side. Not that there was any need 
to do so ; no one heeded her. Blunt, in his professional ex- 
citement, had already forgotten her presence, and Frere was 
in earnest conversation with Vickcrs. 

"Take a boat !" said that gentleman. " Certainly, my dear 
Frere, by all means. That is to say, if the captain does not 
object, and it is not contrary to the Regulations " 



THE MONOTONY BREAKS. 27 



" Captain, you'll lower a boat, eh ? We may save some of 
the poor devils," cries Frere, his heartiness of body reviving at 
the prospect of excitement. 

" Boat ! " said Blunt, " why, she's twelve miles off and more, 
and there's not a breath o' wind ! " 

" But we can't let 'em roast like chestnuts 1 " cried the other, 
as the glow in the sky broadened and became more intense. 

" What is the good of a boat ? " said Pine. " The long-boat 
only holds thirty men, and that's a big ship yonder." 

" Well, take two boats— three boats ! By heaven, you'll 
never let 'em burn alive without stirring a finger to save 'em ! " 

"They've got their own boats," says Blunt, whose coolness 
was in strong contrast to the young officer's impetuosity ; " and 
if the fire gains, they'll take to 'em, you may depend. In the 
meantime, we'll show 'em that there's some one near 'em.' 
And as he spoke, a blue light flared hissing into the night. 

" There, they'll see that, I expect ! " he said, as the ghastly 
flame rose, extinguishing the stars for a moment, only to let 
them appear again brighter in a darker heaven. 

" Mr. Best — lower and man the quarter-boats ! Mr. Frere — 
you can go in one, if you like, and take a volunteer or two from 
those grey jackets of yours amidships. I shall want as many 
hands as I can spare to man the long-boat and cutter, in case 
we want 'em. Steady there, lads ! Easy ! " and as the first 
eight men who could reach the deck parted to the larboard and 
starboard quarter-boats, Frere ran down on the main-deck. 

Mrs. Vickers, of course, was in the way, and gave a genteel 
scream as Blunt rudely pushed past her with a scarce-muttered 
apology ; but her maid was standing erect and motionless, by 
the quarter-railing, and as the captain paused for a moment to 
look round him, he saw her dark eyes fixed on him admiringly. 
He was, as he said, over forty-two, burly and grey-haired, but 
he blushed like a girl under her approving gaze. Nevertheless, 
he said only, " That wench is a trump ! " and swore a little. 

Meanwhile Maurice Frere had passed the sentry and leapt 
down into the 'tween decks. At his nod, the prison door was 
thrown open. The air was hot, and that strange, horrible 
odour peculiar to closely-packed human bodies filled the place. 
It was like coming into a full stable. 

He ran his eye down the double tier of bunks which lined the 
side of the ship, and stopped at the one opposite him. 



28 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

There seemed to have been some disturbance there lately, 
for instead of the six pair of feet which should have protruded 
therefrom, the gleam of the bull's-eye showed but four. 

" What's the matter here, sentry ? " he asked. 

u Prisoner ill, sir. Doctor sent him to hospital." 

" But there should be two." 

The other came from behind the break of the berths. It was 
Rufus Dawes. He held by the side as he came, and saluted. 

" I felt sick, sir, and was trying to get the scuttle open." 

The heads were all raised along the silent line, and eyes and 
ears were eager to see and listen. The double tier of bunks 
looked terribly like a row of wild beast cages at that moment. 

Maurice Frere stamped his foot indignantly. 

" Sick ! What are you sick about, you malingering dog ? 
I'll give you something to sweat the sickness out of you. Stand 
on one side here ! " 

Rufus Dawes, wondering, obeyed. He seemed heavy and 
dejected, and passed his hand across his forehead, as though he 
would rub away a pain there. 

" Which of you fellows can handle an oar ? " Frere went on. 
" There, curse you, I don't want fifty ! Three'll do. Come on 
now, make haste ! " 

The heavy door clashed again, and in another instant the 
four " volunteers " were on deck. The crimson glow was turn- 
ing yellow now, and spreading over the sky. 

"Two in each boat!" cries Blunt. "I'll burn a blue light 
every hour for you, Mr. Best ; and take care they don't swamp 
you. Lower away, lads ! " 

As the second prisoner took the oar of Frere's boat, he uttered 
a groan and fell forward, recovering himself instantly. Sarah 
Purfoy, leaning over the side, saw the occurrence. 

" What is the matter with that man ? " she said. " Is he 
ill?" 

Pine was next to her, and looked out instantly. " It's that 
big fellow in No. 10," he cried. " Here, Frere !" 

But Frere heard him not. He was intent on the beacon that 
gleamed ever brighter in the distance. " Give way, my lads ! " 
he shouted. And amid a cheer from the ship, the two boats 
shot out of the bright circle of the blue light, and disappeared 
into the darkness. 

Sarah Purfoy looked at Pine for an explanation, but he turned 



THE HOSPITAL 29 



abruptly away. For a moment the girl paused, as if in doubt ; 
and then, ere his retreating figure turned to retrace its steps, she 
cast a quick glance around, and slipping down the ladder, made 
her way to the 'tween decks. 

The iron-studded oak barricade that, loop-holed for musketry, 
and perforated with plated trapdoor for sterner needs, separated 
soldiers from prisoners, was close to her left hand, and the 
sentry at its padlocked door looked at her inquiringly. She 
laid her little hand on his big rough one — a sentry is but mortal 
— and opened her brown eyes at him. 

"The hospital," she said. "The doctor sent me;" and 
before he could answer, her white figure vanished down the 
hated, and passed round the bulkhead, behind which lay the 
sick man. 



CHAPTER IV. 

THE HOSPITAL. 



THE hospital was nothing more nor less than a partitioned 
portion of the lower deck, filched from the space allotted 
to the soldiers. It ran fore and aft, coming close to the 
stern windows, and was, in fact, a sort of artificial stern cabin. 
At a pinch, it might have held a dozen men. 

Though not so hot as in the prison, the atmosphere of the 
lower deck was close and unhealthy, and the girl, pausing to 
listen to the subdued hum of conversation coming from the 
soldiers' berths, turned strangely sick and giddy. She drew 
herself up, however, and held out her hand to a man who came 
rapidly across the mis-shapen shadows, thrown by the sulkily 
swinging lantern, to meet her. It was the young soldier who 
had been that day sentry at the convict gangway. 

"Well, miss,"' he said, " I am here, yer see, waiting for yer." 

" You are a good boy, Miles ; but don't you think I'm worth 
waiting for? " 

Miles grinned from ear to ear. 

" Indeed you be," said he. 

Sarah Purfoy frowned, and then smiled. 

"Come here, Miles ; I've got something for you. w 



HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



Miles came forward, grinning harder. 

The girl produced a small object from the pocket of her dress. 
If Mrs. Vickers had seen it she would probably have been 
angry, for it was nothing less than the captain's brandy- 
flask. 

" Drink," said she. " It's the same as they have upstairs, so 
it won't hurt you." 

The fellow needed no pressing. He took off half the contents 
of the bottle at a gulp, and then, fetching a long breath, stood 
staring at her. 

" That's prime ! " 

" Is it ? I daresay it is." She had been looking at him with 
unaffected disgust as he drank. " Brandy is all you men under- 
stand." 

Miles — still sucking in his breath — came a pace closer. 

" Not it," said he, with a twinkle in his little pig's eyes. " I 
understand something else, miss, I can tell yer." 

The tone of the sentence seemed to awaken and remind her 
of her errand in that place. She laughed as loudly and merrily 
as she dared, and laid her hand on the speaker's arm. The 
boy — for he was but a boy, one of those many ill-reared coumry 
louts who leave the plough-tail for the musket, and, for a 
shilling a day, experience all the " pomp and circumstance of 
glorious war" — reddened to the roots of his closely cropped 
hair. 

" There, that's quite close enough. You're only a common 
soldier, Miles, and you mustn't make love to me." 

" Not make love to yer ! " says Miles. " What did yer tell 
me to meet yer here for then ? " 

She laughed again. 

" What a practical animal you are ! Suppose I had some- 
thing to say to you ? " 

Miles devoured her with his eyes. 

" It's hard to marry a soldier," he said, with a recruit's proud 
intonation of the word ; " but yer might do worse, miss, and I'll 
work for yer like a slave, I will." 

She looked at him with curiosity and pleasure. Though her 
time was evidently precious, she could not resist the temptation 
of listening to praises of herself. 

" I know you're above me, Miss Sarah. You're a lady, but 
I love yer, I do, and you drives me wild with yer tricks." 



THE HOSPITAL, 31 



"Do I?" 

"Do yer? Yes, yer do. What did yer come an' make up 
to me for, and then go sweetheartin' with them others ?" 

" What others ? " 

" Why, the cuddy folk— the skipper, and the parson, and 

that Frere. I see yer walkin' the deck wi' un o' nights. 

Dom 'urn, I'd put a bullet through his red head as soon as look 
at un." 

" Hush ! Miles dear — they'll hear you." 

Her face was all aglow, and her expanded nostrils throbbed. 
Beautiful as the face was, it had a tigerish look about it at that 
instant. 

Encouraged by the epithet, Miles put his arm round her slim 
waist, just as Blunt had done, but she did not resent it so 
abruptly. Miles had promised more. 

" Hush ! " she whispered, with admirably-acted surprise — " I 
heard a noise ! " and as the soldier started back, she smoothed 
her dress complacently. 

" There is no one ! " cried he. 

"Isn't there? My mistake, then. Now come here, Miles." 

Miles obeyed. 

" Who is in the hospital ? " 

" I dunno." 

"Well, I want to go in." 

Miles scratched his head, and grinned. 

" Yer carn't." 

" Why not ? You've let me in before." 

"Against the doctor's orders. He told me special to let no 
one in but himself." 

" Nonsense." 

" It ain't nonsense. There was a convict brought in to-night, 
and nobody's to go near him." 

"A convict!" She grew more interested. "What's the 
matter with him?" 

" Dunno. But he's to be kep quiet until old Pine comes 
down." 

She became authoritative. 

" Come, Miles, let me go in." 

" Don't ask me, miss. It's against orders, and " 

"Against orders ! Why, you were blustering about shooting 
people just now." 



32 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

The badgered Miles grew angry. 

" Was I ? Bluster or no bluster, you don't go in." 

She turned away. " Oh, very well. If this is all the thanks 
I get for wasting my time down here, I shall go on deck 
again." 

Miles became uneasy. 

" There are plenty of agreeable people there." 

Miles took a step after her. 

" Mr. Frere will let me go in, I daresay, if I ask him." 

Miles swore under his breath. 

" Dom Mr. Frere! Go in if ycr like," he said; "I won't 
stop yer, but remember what I'm doin' of. " 

She turned again at the foot of the ladder, and came quickly 
back. " That's a good lad. I knew you would not refuse 
me ; " and smiling at the poor lout she was befooling, she 
passed into the cabin. 

There was no lantern, and from the partially-blocked stern 
windows came only a dim, vaporous light. The dull ripple of 
the water as the ship rocked on the slow swell of the sea made 
a melancholy sound, and the sick man's heavy breathing seemed 
to fill the air. The slight noise made by the opening door 
roused him ; he rose on his elbow and began to mutter. Sarah 
Purfoy paused in the doorway to listen, but she could make 
nothing of the low, uneasy murmuring. Raising her arm, 
conspicuous by its white sleeve in the gloom, she beckoned 
Miles. 

" The lantern," she whispered — " bring me the lantern ! " 

He unhooked it from the rope where it swung, and brought 
it towards her. At that moment the man in the bunk sat up 
erect, and twisted himself towards the light. "Sarah!" he 
cried, in shrill, sharp tones. " Sarah ! " and swooped with a 
lean arm through the dusk, as though to seize her. 

The girl leapt out of the cabin like a panther, struck the 
lantern out of her lover's hand, and was back at the bunk-head 
in a moment. The convict was a young man of about four- 
and-twenty. His hands — clutched convulsively now on the 
blankets — were small and well-shaped, and the unshaven chin 
bristled with promise of a strong beard. His wild black eyes 
glared with all the fire of delirium, and as he gasped for breath, 
the sweat stood in beads on his sallow forehead. 

The aspect of the man was sufficiently ghastly, and Miles, 



THE HOSPITAL. 33 



drawing back with an oath, did not wonder at the terror which 
had seized Mrs. Vickers's maid. With open mouth and agonized 
face, she stood in the centre of the cabin, lantern in hand, like 
one turned to stone, gazing at the man on the bed. 

" Ecod, he be a sight !" says Miles, at length. " Come away, 
miss, and shut the door. He's raving, I tell yer." 

The sound of his voice recalled her. 

She dropped the lantern, and rushed to the bed. 

"You fool; he's choking, can't you see? Water! give me 
water ! " 

And wreathing her arms around the man's head, she pulled 
it down on her bosom, rocking it there, half savagely, to 
and fro. 

Awed into obedience by her voice, Miles dipped a pannikin 
into a small unheaded puncheon, cleated in the corner of 
the cabin, and gave it her ; and, without thanking him, she 
placed it to the sick prisoner's lips. He drank greedily, and 
closed his eyes with a grateful sigh. 

Just then tha quick ears of Miles heard the jingle of arms. 

" Here's the doctor coming, miss ! " he cried. " I hear the 
sentry saluting. Come away ! Quick ! " 

She seized the lantern, and, opening the horn slide, ex- 
tinguished it. 

" Say it went out," she said in a fierce whisper, " and hold 
your tongue. Leave me to manage." 

She bent over the convict as if to arrange his pillow, and 
then glided out of the cabin, just as Pine descended the 
hatchway. 

"Hallo!" cried he, stumbling, as he missed his footing; 
" where's the light?" 

" Here, sir," says Miles, fumbling with the lantern. " It's all 
right, sir. It went out, sir." 

" Went out ! What did you let it go out for, you blockhead ! " 
growled the unsuspecting Pine. "Just like you boobies? Wli.it 
is the use of a light if it ' goes out,' eh ? " 

As he groped his way, with out-stretched arms, in the dark- 
ness, Sarah Purfoy slipped past him unnoticed, and gained the 
upper deck. 



34 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



CHAPTER V. 
THE BARRACOON. 

IN the prison of the 'tween decks reigned a darkness preg- 
nant with murmurs. The sentry at the entrance to the 
hatchway was supposed to " prevent the prisoners from 
making a noise," but he put a very liberal interpretation upon 
the clause, and so long as the prisoners refrained from shout- 
ing, yelling, and fighting— eccentricities in which they sometimes 
indulged — he did not disturb them. This course of conduct 
was dictated by prudence, no less than by convenience, for one 
sentry was but little over so many ; and the convicts, if pressed 
too hard, would raise a sort of bestial boo-hoo, in which all 
voices were confounded, and which, while it made noise enough 
and to spare, utterly precluded individual punishment. One 
could not flog a hundred and eighty men, and it was impossible 
to distinguish any particular offender. So, in virtue of this last 
appeal, convictism had established a tacit right to converse in 
whispers, and to move about inside its oaken cage. 

To one coming in from the upper air, the place would have 
seemed in pitchy darkness ; but the convict eye, accustomed to 
the sinister twilight, was enabled to discern surrounding objects 
with tolerable distinctness. The prison was about fifty feet 
long and fifty feet wide, and ran the full height of the 'tween 
decks, viz., about five feet ten inches high. The barricade was 
loop-holed here and there, and the planks were in some places 
wide enough to admit a musket barrel. On the aft side, next 
the soldiers' berths, was a trap door, like the stoke-hole of a 
furnace. At first sight, this appeared to be contrived for the 
humane purpose of ventilation, but a second glance dispelled 
this weak conclusion. The opening was just large enough to 
admit the muzzle of a small howitzer, secured on the deck 
below. In case of a mutiny, the soldiers could sweep the 
prison from end to end with grape shot. Such fresh air as 
there was, filtered through the loop holes, and came, in some- 
what larger quantity, through a wind-sail passed into the prison 
from the hatchway. But the wind-sail being necessarily at 
one end only of the place, the air it brought was pretty well 
absorbed by the twenty or thirty lucky fellows near itj and 



THE BARRACOON. 35 

the other hundred and fifty did not come so well off. The 
scuttles were open, certainly, but as the row of bunks had been 
built against them, the air they brought was the peculiar 
property of such men as occupied the berths into which they 
penetrated. These berths were twenty-eight in number, each 
containing six men. They ran in a double tier round three 
sides of the prison, twenty at each side, and eight affixed to 
that portion of the forward barricade opposite the door. Each 
berth was presumed to be five feet six inches square, but the 
necessities of stowage had deprived them of six inches, and 
even under that pressure twelve men were compelled to sleep 
on the deck. Pine did not exaggerate when he spoke of the 
custom of overcrowding convict ships ; and as he was entitled 
to half a guinea for every man he delivered alive at Hobart 
Town, he had some reason to complain. 

When Frere had come down, an hour before, the prisoners 
were all snugly between their blankets. They were not so 
now ; though, at the first clink of the bolts, they would be 
back again in their old positions, to all appearances sound 
asleep. As the eye became accustomed to the fcetid duskiness 
of the prison, a strange picture presented itself. Groups of 
men, in all imaginable attitudes, were lying, standing, sitting, 
or pacing up and down. It was the scene on the poop deck 
over again ; only, here being no fear of restraining keepers, the 
wild beasts were a little more free in their movements. It is 
impossible to convey, in words, any idea of the hideous phan- 
tasmagoria of shifting limbs and faces which moved through 
the evil-smelling twilight of this terrible prison-house. Callot 
might have drawn it, Dante might have suggested it, but a 
minute attempt to describe its horrors would but disgust. 
There are depths in humanity which one cannot explore, as 
there arc mephitic caverns into which one dare not penetrate. 

Old men, young men, and boys, stalwart burglars and high- 
way robbers, slept side by side with wizened pickpockets or 
cunning-featured area-sneaks. The forger occupied the same 
berth with the body-snatcher. The man of education learned 
strange secrets of house-breakers' craft, and the vulgar ruffian 
of St. Giles took lessons of self-control from the keener in- 
tellect of the professional swindler. The fraudulent clerk and 
the flash "cracksman" interchanged experiences. The smug- 
gler's stories of lucky ventures and successful runs were capped 



36 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

by the footpad's reminiscences of foggy nights and stolen 
watches. The poacher, grimly thinking of his sick wife and 
orphaned children, would start as the night-house ruffian 
clapped him on the shoulder and bade him, with a curse, to 
take good heart and "be a man." The fast shopboy, whose 
love of fine company and high living had brought him to this 
pass, had shaken off the first shame that was on him, and 
listened eagerly to the narratives of successful vice that fell 
so glibly from the lips of his older companions. To be trans- 
ported seemed no such uncommon fate. The old fellows 
laughed, and wagged their grey heads with all the glee of past 
experience, and listening youth longed for the time when it 
might do likewise. Society was the common foe, and magis- 
trates, jailers, and parsons, were the natural prey of all note- 
worthy mankind. Only fools were honest, only cowards 
kissed the rod, and failed to meditate revenge on that world 
of respectability which had wronged them. Each new comer 
was one more recruit to the ranks of ruffianism, and not a man 
penned in that reeking den of infamy but became a sworn 
hater of law, order, and " free-men. " What he might have 
been before mattered not. He was now a prisoner, and — 
thrust into a suffocating barracoon, herded with the foulest of 
mankind, with all imaginable depths of blasphemy and in- 
decency sounded hourly in his sight and hearing— he lost his 
self-respect, and became what his jailers took him to be — a wild 
beast to be locked under bolts and bars, lest he should break 
out and tear them. 

The conversation ran upon the sudden departure of the 
four. 

What could they want with them at that hour? 

" I tell you there's something up on deck," says one to the 
group nearest him. "Don't you hear all that rumbling and 
rolling ? " 

"What did they lower boats for? I heard the dip o' the 
oars." 

" Don't know, mate. P'r'aps a burial job," hazarded a short, 
stout fellow, as a sort of happy suggestion. 

" One of those coves in the parlour ! " said another ; and a 
laugh followed the speech. 

" No such luck. You won't hang your jib for them yet awhilj 
More like the skipper agone fishin'." 



THE BARRACOON. 37 



" The skipper don't go fishin', yer fool. What would he do 
fishin'? — special in the middle o' the night." 

" That 'ud be like old Dovery, eh ? " says a fifth, alluding to 
an old grey-headed fellow, who — a returned convict — was again 
under sentence for body snatching. 

" Ay," put in a young man, who bad the reputation of being 
the smartest " crow " * in London — " ' fishers of men,' as the 
parson says." 

The snuffling imitation of a Methodist preacher was good, and 
there was another laugh. 

Just then a miserable little cockney pick-pocket, feeling his 
way to the door, fell into the party. 

A volley of oaths and kicks received him. 

" I beg your pardon, gen'l'men," cries the miserable wretch, 
"but I want h'air." 

" Go to the barber's and buy a wig, then 1 " says the Crow, 
elated at the success of his last sally. 

" Oh, sir, my back ! " 

" Get up ! " groaned some one in the darkness. " O Lord, 
I'm smothering ! Here, sentry !" 

" Vater ! " cried the little cockney. " Give us a drop o'vater, 
for mercy's sake. I haven't moist'ned my chaffer this blessed 
day." 

" Half a gallon a day, bo,' and no more," says a sailor next 
him. 

" Yes, what have yer done with yer half gallon, eh ? " asked 
the Crow, derisively. 

" Some one stole it," said the sufferer. 

" He's been an' blued it," squealed some one. " Been an' 
blued it to buy a Sunday veskit with ! Oh, ain't he a vicked 
young man ? " And the speaker hid his head under the blankets, 
in humorous affectation of modesty. 

All this time the miserable little cockney — he was a tailor by 
trade— had been grovelling under the feet of the Crow and his 
companions. 

" Let me h'up, gents," he implored — " let me h'up. I feel as 
if I should die— I do." 

" Let the gentleman up," says the humorist in the bunk. 
*' Don't yer see his kcrridge is avaitin' to take him to the 

Ho pera?" 

* Crow— The " look-out man " of a burglars' gang. 



3S HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

The conversation had got a little loud, and, from the top- 
most bunk on the near side, a bullet head protruded. 

" Ain't a cove to get no sleep ? " cried a gruff voice. " My 
blood, if I have t© turn out, I'll knock some of your empty heads 
together." 

It seemed that the speaker was a man of mark, for the noise 
ceased instantly ; and, in the lull which ensued, a shrill scream 
broke from the wretched tailor. 

" Help ! they're killing me ? Ah-h-h-h !" 

" Wot's the matter ? " roared the silencer of the riot, jumping 
from his berth, and scattering the Crow and his companions 
right and left. " Let him be, can't yer ? " 

" H'air ! " cried the poor devil — " h'air ; I'm faint- 
ing!" 

Just then there came another groan from the man in the 
opposite bunk. 

" Well I'm blessed ! " said the giant, as he held the gasping 
tailor by the collar and glared round him. " Here's a pretty 
go ! All the blessed chickens ha' got the croup ! " 

The groaning of the man in the bunk redoubled. 

" Pass the word to the sentry," says some one more humane 
than the rest. 

" Ah," says the humorist, " pass him out ; it'll be one the 
less. We'd rather have his room than his company." 

" Sentry, here's a man sick." 

But the sentry knew his duty better than to reply. He was 
a young soldier, but he had been well informed of the artfulness 
of convict stratagems ; and, moreover, Captain Vickers had 
carefully apprised him " that by the King's Regulations, he was 
forbidden to i-cply to any question or communication addressed to 
him by a convict, but, in the event of being addressed, was to call 
the no7i-commissioned officer on duly.''- Now, though he was 
within easy hailing distance of the guard on the quarter-deck, 
he felt a natural disinclination to disturb those gentlemen 
merely for the sake of a sick convict, and knowing that, in 
a few minutes, the third relief would come on duty, he decided 
to wait until then. 

In the meantime the tailor grew worse, and began to moan 
dismally. 

" Here ! 'ullo ! " called out his supporter, in dismay. " Hold 
up 'ere ! Wot's wrong with yer ? Don't come the drops 'ere. 



THE BARRACOON. 39 

Pass him down, some of yer," and the wretch was hustled down 
the line to the doorway. 

" Vater ! " he whispered, beating feebly with his hand on the 
thick oak. " Get us a drink, mister, for Gord's sake ! " 

But the prudent sentry answered never a word, until the 
ship's bell warned him of the approach of the relief guard ; and 
then honest old Pine, coming with anxious face to inquire after 
his charge, received the intelligence that there was another 
prisoner sick. He had the door unlocked and the tailor out 
side in an instant. One look at the flushed, anxious face was 
enough. 

"Who's that moaning in there?" he asked. 

It was the man who had tried to call for the sentry an hour 
back, and Pine had him out also ; convictism beginning to 
wonder a little. 

" Take 'cm both aft to the hospital," he said ; " and, Jenkins, 
if there are any more men taken sick, let them pass the word 
for me at once. I shall be on deck." 

The guard stared in each other's faces, with some alarm, but 
said nothing, thinking more of the burning ship, which now 
flamed furiously across the placid water, than of peril nearer 
home; but as Pine went up the hatchway he met Blunt. 

" We've got the fever aboard ! " 

" Good God ! Do you mean it, Pine ? " 

Pine shook his grizzled head sorrowfully. 

" It's this cursed calm that's done it ; though I expected it all 
along, with the ship crammed as she is. When I was in the 
Hecuba " 

" Who is it ? " 

Pine laughed a half-pitying, half-angry laugh. 

"A convict, of course. Who else should it be? They are 
reeking like bullocks at Smithficld down there. A hundred and 
eighty men penned into a place fifty feet long, with the air like 
an oven — what could you expect ? " 

Poor Blunt stamped his foot. 

" It isn't my fault," he cried. " The soldiers are berthed aft. 
If the Government will overload these ships, I can't help it." 

" The Government ! Ah! The Government! The Govern- 
ment don't sleep, sixty men a-side, in a cabin only six feet high. 
The Government don't get typhus fever in the tropics, does 
it?" 



40 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

" No— but " 

" But what does the Government care, then ? " 

Blunt wiped his hot forehead. 

" Who was the first down ? " 

" No. 97 berth ; ten on the lower tier. John Rex he calls 
himself." 

"Are you sure it's the fever?" 

" As sure as I can be yet. Head like a fire-ball, and tongue 
like a strip of leather. Gad, don't I know it ? " and Pine 
grinned mournfully. " I've got him moved into the hospital. 
Hospital ! It is a hospital ! As dark as a wolf's mouth. I've 
seen dog-kennels I liked better." 

Blunt nodded towards the volume of lurid smoke that rolled 
up out of the glow. — " Suppose there is a shipload of those poor 
devils ? I can't refuse to take 'em in." 

"No," says Pine, gloomily, "I suppose you can't. If they 
come, I must stow 'em somewhere. We'll have to run for the 
Cape, with the first breeze, if they do come, that is all I can see 
for it," and he turned away to watch the burning vessel. 



CHAPTER VI. 

THE FATE OF THE " HYDASPES." 

IN the meanwhile the two boats made straight for the red 
column that uprose like a gigantic torch over the silent sea. 
As Blunt had said, the burning ship lay a good twelve 
miles from the Malabar, and the pull was a long and a weary 
one. Once fairly away from the protecting sides of the vessel 
that had borne them thus far on their dismal journey, the 
adventurers seemed to have come into a new atmosphere. The 
immensity of the ocean over which they slowly moved revealed 
itself for the first time. On board the prison ship, surrounded 
with all the memories if not with the comforts of the shore they 
had quitted, they had not realized how far they were from that 
civilization which had given them birth. The well-lighted, well- 
furnished cuddy, the homely mirth of the forecastle, the setting 
of sentries and the changing of guards, even the gloom and 



THE FATE OF THE " HYDASPES." 41 



terror of the closely-locked prison, combined to make the 
voyagers feel secure against the unknown dangers of the sea. 
That defiance of nature which is born of contact with humanity, 
had hitherto sustained them, and they felt that, though alone 
on the vast expanse of waters, they were in companionship with 
others of their kind, and that the perils one man had passed 
might be successfully dared by another. But now — with one 
ship growing smaller behind them, and the other, containing 
they knew not what horror of human agony and human helpless- 
ness, lying a burning wreck in the black distance ahead of them 
— they began to feel their own littleness. The Malabar, that 
huge sea monster, in whose capacious belly so many human 
creatures lived and suffered, had dwindled to a walnut-shell, 
and yet beside her bulk how infinitely small had their own frail 
cock-boat appeared as they shot out from under her towering 
stern ! Then the black hull rising above them, had seemed a 
tower of strength, built to defy the utmost violence of wind and 
wave ; now it was but a slip of wood floating — on an unknown 
depth of black, fathomless water. The blue-light, which, at its 
first flashing over the ocean, had made the very stars pale their 
lustre, and lighted up with ghastly radiance the enormous vault 
of heaven, was now only a point, brilliant and distinct it is 
true, but which by its very brilliance dwarfed the ship into 
insignificance. The Malabar lay on the water like a glow- 
worm on a floating leaf, and the glare of the signal-Are made 
no more impression on the darkness than the candle carried 
by a solitary miner would have made on the abyss of a coal-pit. 

And yet the Malabar held two hundred creatures like 
themselves ! 

The water over which the boats glided was black and 
smooth, rising into huge foamless billows, the more terrible 
because they were silent. When the sea hisses, it speaks, 
and speech breaks the spell of terror ; when it is inert, heaving 
noiselessly, it is dumb, and seems to brood over mischief. The 
ocean in a calm is like a sulky giant ; one dreads that it may 
be meditating evil. Moreover, an angry sea looks less vast in 
extent than a calm one. Its mounting waves bring the horizon 
nearer, and one does not discern how for many leagues the 
pitiless billows repeat themselves. To appreciate the hideous 
vastness of the ocean one must see it when it sleeps. 

The great sky uprose from this silent sea without a cloud. 



42 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

The stars hung low in its expanse, burning in a violet mist of 
lower ether. The heavens were emptied of sound, and each 
dip of the oars was re-echoed in space by a succession of subtle 
harmonies. As the blades struck the dark water, it flashed fire, 
and the tracks of the boats resembled two sea-snakes writhing 
with silent undulations through a lake of quicksilver. 

It had been a sort of race hitherto, and the rowers, with set 
teeth and compressed lips, had pulled stroke for stroke. At 
last the foremost boat came to a sudden pause. Best gave a 
cheery shout and passed her, steering straight into the broad 
track of crimson that already reeked on the sea ahead. 

" What is it ? " he cried. 

But he heard only a smothered curse from Frere, and then 
his consort pulled hard to overtake him. 

It was, in fact, nothing of consequence — only a prisoner 
" giving in." 

" Curse it ! " says Frere, " what's the matter with you ? Oh, 
you, is it ? — Dawes ! Of course, Dawes. I never expected 
anything better from such a skulking hound. Come, this sort 
of nonsense won't do with me. It isn't as nice as lolloping 
about the hatchways, I dare say, but you'll have to go on, my 
fine fellow." 

" He seems sick, sir," said compassionate bow. 

" Sick ! Not he. Shamming. Come, give way now ! Put 
your backs into it ! " and the convict having picked up his oar, 
the boat shot forward again. 

But, for all Mr. Frere's urging, he could not recover the way 
he had lost, and Best was the first to run in under the black 
cloud that hung over the crimsoned water. 

At his signal, the second boat came alongside. 

"Keep wide," he said. "If there are many fellows yet 
aboard, they'll swamp us ; and I think there must be, as we 
haven't met the boats," and then raising his voice, as the 
exhausted crew lay on their oars, he hailed the burning ship. 

She was a huge, clumsily-built vessel, with great breadth of 
beam, and a lofty poop-deck. Strangely enough, though they 
had so lately seen the fire, she was already a wreck, and ap- 
peared to be completely deserted. The chief hold of the fire 
was amidships, and the lower deck was one mass of flame. 
Here and there were great charred rifts and gaps in her sides, 
and the red-hot fire glowed through these as through the bars 



THE FATE OF THE " HYDASPES." 43 



of a grate. The main-mast had fallen on the starboard side, 
and trailed a blackened wreck in the water, causing the 
unwieldy vessel to lean over heavily. The fire roared like a 
cataract, and huge volumes of flame-flecked smoke poured up 
out of the hold, and rolled away in a low-lying black cloud over 
the sea. 

As Frere's boat pulled slowly round her stern, he hailed the 
deck again and again. 

Still there was no answer, and though the flood of light that 
dyed the water blood-red struck out every rope and spar 
distinct and clear, his straining eyes could see no living soul 
aboard. As they came nearer, they could distinguish the 
gilded letters of her name. 

"What is it, men?" cried Frere, his voice almost drowned 
amid the roar of the flames. " Can you see ? " 

Rufus Dawes, impelled, it would seem, by some strong 
impulse of curiosity, stood erect, and shaded his eyes with his 
hand. 

" Well— can't you speak ? What is it ? " 

"The Hydaspcs .'" 

Frere gasped. 

The Hydaspes/ The ship in which his cousin Richard 
Devine had sailed ! The ship for which those in England 
might now look in vain ! The Hydaspcs which — something he 
had heard during the speculations as to this missing cousin 
flashed across him. 

" Back water, men ! Round with her 1 Pull for your 
lives ! " 

Best's boat glided alongside. 

" Can you see her name ?" 

Frere, white with tenor, shouted a reply. 

" The Hydaspes ! I know her. She is bound for Calcutta, 
and she has five tons of powder aboard ! " 

There was no need for more words. The single sentence 
explained the whole mystery of her desertion. The crew had 
taken to the boats on the first alarm, and had left their death- 
fraught vessel to her fate. They were miles off by this time, 
and unluckily for themselves, perhaps, had steered away from 
the side where rescue lay. 

The boats tore through the water. Eager as the men had 
been to come, they were more eager to depart. The flames 



44 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

had even now reached the poop ; in a few minutes it would be 
too late. For ten minutes or more not a word was spoken. 
With straining arms and labouring chests, the rowers tugged at 
the oars, their eyes fixed on the lurid mass they were leaving. 
Frere and Best, with their faces turned back to the terror they 
fled from, urged the men to greater efforts. Already the flames 
had lapped the flag, already the outlines of the stern-carvings 
were blurred by the fire. 

Another moment, and all would be over. Ah ! it had come 
at last. 

A dull rumbling sound ; the burning ship parted asunder ; 
a pillar of fire, flecked with black masses that were beams and 
planks, rose up out of the ocean ; there was a terrific crash, as 
though sea and sky were coming together ; and then a mighty 
mountain of water rose, advanced, caught, and passed them, 
and they were alone — deafened, stunned, and breathless, in 
a sudden horror of thickest darkness, and a silence like that of 
the tomb. 

The splashing of the falling fragments awoke them from their 
stupor, and then the blue light of the Malabar struck out a 
bright pathway across the sea, and they knew that they were 
safe. 

» * * * » 

On board the Malabar two men paced the deck, waiting for 
dawn. 

It came at last. The sky lightened, the mist melted away, 
and then a long, low, far-off streak of pale yellow light floated 
on the eastern horizon. By-and-by the water sparkled, and the 
sea changed colour, turning from black to yellow, and from 
yellow to lucid green. The man at the masthead hailed the 
deck. The boats were in sight, and as they came towards the 
ship, the bright water flashing from the labouring oars, a crowd 
of spectators hanging over the bulwarks cheered and waved 
their hats. 

"Not a soul!" cried Blunt. "No one but themselves. 
Well, I'm glad they're safe any way." 

The boats drew alongside, and in a few seconds Frere was 
upon deck. 

" Well, Mr. Frere ? " 

" No use," cried Frere, shivering. " We only just had time 
to get away. The nearest thing in the world, sir." 



THE FATE OF THE " HYDASPES." 45 



" Didn't you see any one ? " 

" Not a soul. They must have taken to the boats." 

" Then they can't be far off," cried Blunt, sweeping the 
horizon with his glass. " They must have pulled all the way, 
for there hasn't been enough wind to fill a hollow tooth with." 

" Perhaps they pulled in the wrong direction," said Frere. 
" They had a good four hours' start of us, you know.'' 

Then Best came up, and told the story to a crowd of eager 
listeners. The sailors having hoisted and secured the boats, 
were hurried off to the forecastle, there to eat, and relate their 
experience between mouthfuls, and the four convicts were taken 
in charge and locked below again. 

" You had better go and turn in, Frere," said Pine gruffly. 
" It's no use whistling for a wind here all day." 

Frere laughed — in his heartiest manner. " I think I will," 
he said. " I'm dog tired, and as sleepy as an owl," and he 
descended the poop-ladder. 

Pine took a couple of turns up and down the deck, and then 
catching Blunt's eye, stopped in front of Vickers. 

"You may think it a hard thing to say, Captain Vickers, but 
it's just as well if we don't find these poor devils. We have 
quite enough on our hands as it is." 

" What do you mean, Mr. Pine ? " says Vickers, his humane 
feelings getting the better of his pomposity. " You would not 
surely leave the unhappy men to their fate." 

" Perhaps," returned the other, " they would not thank us for 
taking them aboard." 

" I don't understand you." 

" The fever has broken out." 

Vickers raised his brows. He had no experience of such 
things; and though the intelligence was startling, the crowded 
condition of the prison rendered it easy to be understood, and 
he apprehended no danger to himself. 

" It is a great misfortune ; but, of course, you will take such 
steps " 

" It is only in the prison, as yet" says Pine, with a grim 
emphasis on the word ; " but there is no saying how long it may 
stop there. I have got three men down as it is." 

"Well, sir, all authority in the matter is in your hands. Any 
suggestions you make, I will, of course, do my best to cany 
out." 



46 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

" Thank ye. I must have more room in the hospital to 
begin with. The soldiers must lie a little closer." 

" I will see what can be done." 

" And you had better keep your wife and the little girl as 
much on deck as possible." 

Vickers turned pale at the mention of his child. " Good 
heaven ! do you think there is any danger ? " 

"There is, of course, danger to all of us ; but with care we 
may escape it. There's that maid, too. Tell her to keep to 
herself a little more. She has a trick of roaming about the 
ship I don't like. Infection is easily spread, and children 
always sicken' sooner than grown-up people." 

Vickers pressed his lips together. This old man, with his 
harsh, dissonant voice, and hideous practicality, seemed like 
a bird of ill-omen. 

Blunt, hitherto silently listening, put in a word for the defence 
of the absent woman. "The wench is right enough, Pine," 
said he. " What's the matter with Tier ? " 

"Yes, she's all right, I've no doubt. She's less likely to take 
it than any of us. You can see her vitality in her face — as 
many lives as a cat. But she'd bring infection quicker than 
anybody." 

" I'll — I'll go at once," cried poor Vickers, turning round. 

The woman of whom they were speaking met him at the 
ladder. Her face was paler than usual, and dark circles round 
her eyes gave evidence of a sleepless night. She opened her 
red lips to speak, and then, seeing Vickers, stopped abruptly. 

"Well, what is it?" 

She looked from one to the other. " I came for Dr. Pine." 

Vickers, with the quick intelligence of affection, guessed her 
errand. "Some one is ill?" 

" Miss Sylvia, sir. It is nothing to signify, I think. A little 
feverish and hot, and my mistress " 

Vickers was down the ladder in an instant, with scared face. 

Pine caught the girl's round firm arm. "Where have you 
been ? " 

Two great flakes of red came out in her white cheeks, and 
she shot an indignant glance at Blunt. 

" Come, Pine, let the wench alone ! " 

" Were you with the child last night ? " went on Pine, without 
turning his head. 



THE FATE OF THE " HYDASPES." 47 



" No ; I have not been in the cabin since dinner yesterday. 
Mrs. Vickers only called me in just now. Let go my arm, sir, 
you hurt me." 

Pine loosed his hold as if satisfied at the reply. " I beg your 
pardon," he said, gruffly. " I did not mean to hurt you. But 
the fever has broken out in the prison, and I think the child 
has caught it. You must be careful where you go." 

And then, with an anxious face, he went in pursuit of 
Vickers. 

Sarah Purfoy stood motionless for an instant, in deadly 
terror. Her lips parted, her eyes glittered, and she made a 
movement as though to retrace her steps. 

" Poor soul ! " thought honest Blunt, " how she feels for the 

child i d that lubberly surgeon, he's hurt her !— Never 

mind, my lass," he said, aloud. It was broad daylight, and he 
had not as much courage in love-making as at night. " Don't 
be afraid. I've been in ships with fever before now." 

Awaking, as it were, at the sound of his voice, she came 
closer to him. " But ship fever ! I have heard of it ! Men 
have died like rotten sheep in crowded vessels like this." 

"Tush! Not they. Don't be frightened ; Miss Sylvia won't 
die, nor you neither." He took her hand. " It may knock off 
a few dozen prisoners or so. They are pretty close packed 

down there " 

She drew her hand away, and then, remembering herself, 
gave it him again. 

"What is the matter?" 

" Nothing— a pain. I did not sleep last night." 
"There, there; you are upset, I dare say. Go and lie 
down." 

She was staring away past him over the sea, as if in thought. 
So intently did she look that he involuntarily turned his head, 
and the action recalled her to herself. She brought her fine 
straight brows together for a moment, and then raised them 
with the action of a thinker who has decided on his course of 
conduct. 

" I have a toothache," said she, putting her hand to her face. 
" Take some laudanum," says Blunt, with dim recollections 
of his old mother's treatment of such ailments. "Old Pine '11 
give you some." 

T© his great astonishment ?he burst into tears. 



4 8 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



" There — there ! Don't cry, my dear. Hang it, don't cry. 
What are you crying about?" 

She dashed away the bright drops, and raised her face with 
a rainy smile of trusting affection. 

" Nothing ! I am lonely. So far from home ; and — and 
Dr. Pine hurt my arm. Look ! " 

She bared that shapely member as she spoke, and sure 
enough there were three red marks on the white and shining 
flesh. 

"The ruffian !" cried Blunt, "it's too bad." And, after a 
hasty look round him, the infatuated fellow kissed the bruise. 
" I'll get the laudanum for you," he said. " You sha'n't ask that 
bear for it. Come into my cabin." 

Blunt's cabin was in the starboard side of the ship, just under 
the poop awning, and possessed three windows — one looking 
out over the side, and two upon deck. The corresponding 
cabin on the other side was occupied by Mr. Maurice Frere. 
He closed the door, and took down a small medicine chest, 
cleated above the hooks where hung his signal-pictured 
telescope. 

" Here," said he, opening it. " I've carried this little box for 
vears, but it ain't often I want to use it, thank God. Now, 
then, put some o' this into your mouth, and hold it there." 

" Good gracious, Captain Blunt, you'll poison me ! Give me 
the bottle ; I'll help myself." 

" Don't take too much," says Blunt. " It's dangerous stuff, 
you know." 

"You need not fear. I've used it before." 

The door was shut, and as she put the bottle in her pocket, 
the amorous captain caught her in his arms. 

"What do you say? Come, I think I deserve a kiss for 
that." 

Her tears were all dry long ago, and had only given increased 
colour to her face. This agreeable woman never wept long 
enough to make herself distasteful. She raised her dark eyes 
to his for a moment, with a saucy smile. "By-and-by," said 
she, and escaping gained her cabin. It was next to that of 
her mistress, and she could hear the sick child feebly moaning. 
Her eyes filled with tears — real ones this time. 

" Poor little thing," she said ; " I hope she won't die." 

And then she threw herself on her bed, and buried her hot 



TYPHUS FEVER. 49 



head in the pillow. The intelligence of the fever seemed to 
have terrified her. Had the news disarranged some well- 
concocted plan of hers? Being near the accomplishment of 
some cherished scheme long kept in view, had the sudden and 
unexpected presence of disease falsified her carefully-made 
calculations, and cast an almost insurmountable obstacle in 
her path ? 

" She die ! and through me ? How did I know that he had 
the fever ? Perhaps I have taken it myself — I feel ill." She 
turned over on the bed, as if in pain, and then started to a 
sitting position, stung by a sudden thought. " Perhaps he 
might die ! The fever spreads quickly, and if so, all this 
plotting will have been useless. It must be done at once. It 
will never do to break down now" and taking the phial from 
her pocket, she held it up, to see how much it contained. It 
was three parts full. " Enough for both," she said, between 
her set teeth. The action of holding up the bottle reminded 
her of amorous Blunt, and she smiled. "A strange way to 
show affection for a man," she said to herself, "and yet he 
doesn't care, and I suppose I shouldn't by this time. I'll go 
through with it, and, if the worst comes to the worst, I can fall 
back on Maurice." She loosened the cork of the phial, so that 
it would come out with as little noise as possible, and then 
placed it carefully in her bosom. " I will get a little sleep if 
I can," she said. " They have got the note, and it shall be 
done to-niyht." 



CHAPTER VII. 

TYPHUS FEVER. 



THE felon Rufus Dawes had stretched himself in his bunk 
and tried to sleep. But though he was tired and sore 
and his head felt like lead, he could not but keep broad 
awake. The long pull through the pure air, if it had tired him 
had revived him, and he felt stronger ; but for all that, the 
fatal sickness that was on him maintained its hold ; his pulse 
beat thickly, and his brain throbbed with unnatural heat. Lying 
in his narrow space— in the semi-darkness — he tossed his limbs 

4 



5<5 HIS NATURAL LIFE, 



about, and closed his eyes in vain — he could not sleep. His 
utmost efforts induced only an oppressive stagnation of thought, 
through which he heard the voices of his fellow-convicts ; while 
before his eyes was still the burning Hydaspcs — that vessel, 
whose destruction had destroyed for ever all trace of the un- 
happy Richard Devine. 

It was fortunate for his comfort, perhaps, that the man who 
had been chosen to accompany him was of a talkative turn, for 
the prisoners insisted upon hearing the story of the explosion 
a dozen times over, and Rufus Dawes himself had been roused 
to give the name of the vessel with his own lips. Had it not 
been for the hideous respect in which he was held, it is possible 
that he might have been compelled to give his version also, 
and to join in the animated discussion which took place upon 
the possibility of the saving of the fugitive crew. As it was, 
however, he was left in peace, and lay unnoticed, trying to 
sleep. 

The detachment of fifty being on deck — airing — the prison 
was not quite so hot as at night, and many of the convicts 
made up for their lack of rest by snatching a dog-sleep in the 
bared bunks. The four volunteer oarsmen were allowed to 
"take it out." 

As yet there had been no alarm of fever. The three seizures 
had excited some comment, however, and had it not been for 
the counter excitement of the burning ship, it is possible that 
Pine's precaution would have been thrown away. The "Old 
Hands" — who had been through the passage before — suspected, 
but said nothing, save among themselves. It was likely that 
the weak and sickly would go first, and that there would be 
more room for those remaining. The "Old Hands" were 
satisfied. 

Three of these old hands were conversing together just 
behind the partition of Dawes's bunk. As we have said, the 
berths were five feet square, and each contained six men. 
No. 10, the berth occupied by Dawes, was situated in the 
corner made by the joining of the starboard and centre lines, 
and behind it was a slight recess, in which the scuttle was 
fixed. His " mates " were at present but three in number, for 
John Rex and the cockney tailor had been removed to the 
hospital. The three that remained were now in deep conver- 
sation in the shelter of the recess. Of these, the giant — who 



TYPHUS FEVER. 5* 



had the previous night asserted his authority in the prison — 
seemed to be the chief. His name was Gabbett. He was a 
returned convict, now on his way to undergo a second sentence 
for burglary. The other two were a man named Sanders, 
known as. " the Moocher," and Jemmy Vetch the " Crow." 
They were talking in whispers, but Rufus Dawes, lying with 
his head close to the partition, was enabled to catch much of 
what they said. 

At first the conversation turned on the catastrophe of the 
burning ship and the likelihood of saving the crew. From this 
it grew to anecdote of wreck and adventure, and at last Gabbett 
said something which made the listener start from his in- 
different efforts to slumber, into sudden broad wakefulness. 

It was the mention of his own name, coupled with that of 
the woman he had met on the quarter deck, that roused 
him. 

" I saw her speaking to Dawes yesterday," said the giant, 
with an oath. "We don't want no more than we've got. I 
ain't goin' to risk my neck for Rex's woman's fancies, and so 
I'll tell her." 

" It was something about the kid," says the Crow, in his 
elegant slang. " I don't believe she ever saw him before. 
Besides, she's nuts on Jack, and ain't likely to pick up with 
another man." 

" If I thort she was agoin' to throw us over, I'd cut her 
throat as soon as look at her ! " snorts Gabbett, savagely. 

"Jack ud have a word in that," snuffles the Moocher; "and 
he's a curious cove to quarrel with." 

"Well, stow yer gaff," grumbled Mr. Gabbett, "and let's 
have no more chaff. If we're for bizness, let's come to bizness." 

'• What are we to do now?" asked the Moocher. " Jack's on 
the sick-list, and the gal won't stir a'lhout him." 

"Ay," returned Gabbett, " that's it." 

" My dear friends," said the Crow, — "my keyind and kcris- 
tian friends, it is to be regretted that when natur' gave you such 
tremendously thick skulls, she didn't put something inside of 
'em. I say that now's the time. Jack's in the 'orspital ; what 
of that? That don't make it no better for him, does it? Not a 
bit of it ; and if he drops his knife and fork, why then, it's my 
opinion that the gal won't stir a peg. It's on his account, not 
ours, that she's been manoovering, ain't it?" 



52 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

" Well ! " says Mr. Gabbett, with the air of one who was 
but partly convinced, " I s'pose it is." 

"All the more reason of getting it off quick. Another thing, 
when the boys know there's fever aboard, you'll see the rumpus 
there'll be. They'll be ready enough to join us then. Once 
get the snapper chest, and we're right as ninepenn'orth o' 
hapence." 

This conversation, interspersed with oaths and slang as it 
was, had an intense interest for Rufus Dawes. Plunged into 
prison, hurriedly tried, and by reason of his surroundings 
ignorant of the death of his father and his own fortune, he had 
hitherto — in his agony and sullen glooms-held aloof from the 
scoundrels who surrounded him, and repelled their hideous 
advances of friendship. He now saw his error. He knew that 
the name he had once possessed was blotted out, that any shred 
of his old life which had clung to him hitherto, was shrivelled 
in the fire that consumed the Hydaspes. The secret, for the 
preservation of which Richard Devine had voluntarily flung 
away his name, and risked a terrible and disgraceful death, 
would be now for ever safe ; for Richard Devine was dead — 
lost at sea with the crew of the ill-fated vessel in which, deluded 
by a skilfully-sent letter from the prison, his mother believed 
him to have sailed. Richard Devine was dead, and the secret 
of his birth would die with him. Rufus Dawes, his alter ego, 
alone should live. Rufus Dawes, the convicted felon, the 
suspected murderer, should live to claim his freedom, and work 
out his vengeance ; or, rendered powerful by the terrible ex- 
perience of the prison-sheds, should seize both, in defiance of 
jail or jailer. 

With his head swimming, and his brain on fire, he eagerly 
listened for more. It seemed as if the fever which burnt in his 
veins had consumed the grosser part of his sense, and given 
him increased power of hearing. He was conscious that he 
was ill. His bones ached, his hands burned, his head throbbed, 
but he could hear distinctly, and, he thought, reason on what 
he heard profoundly. 

" But we can't stir without the girl," Gabbett said. " She's 
got to stall off the sentry and give us the orfice." 

The Crow's sallow features lighted up with a cunning smile. 

" Dear old caper merchant ! Hear him talk ! " said he, " as 
if he had the wisddm of Solomon in all his glory ? Look here !" 



TYPHUS FEVER. 53 



And he produced a dirty scrap of paper, over which his 
companions eagerly bent their heads. 

" Where did yer get that?" 

" Yesterday afternoon Sarah was standing on the poop throw- 
ing bits o' toke to the gulls, and I saw her a-looking at me very 
hard. At last she came down as near the barricade as she 
dared, and throwed crumbs and such like up in the air over the 
side. By-and-by a pretty big lump, doughed up round, fell 
close to my foot, and, watching a favourable opportunity, I 
pouched it. Inside was this bit o' rag-bag." 

"Ah!" said Mr. Gabbett, "that's more like. Read it out, 
Jemmy." 

The writing, though feminine in character, was bold and 
distinct. Sarah had evidently been mindful of the education 
of her friends, and had desired to give them as little trouble 
as possible. 

Ail is right. Watch me when I come up to-morrow evening 
at three bells. If I drop my handkerchief, get to work at the 
time agreed on. The sentry will be safe. 

Rufus Dawes, though his eyelids would scarcely keep open, 
and a terrible lassitude almost paralysed his limbs, eagerly 
drank in the whispered sentence. There was a conspiracy to 
seize the ship. Sarah Purfoy was in league with the convicts — 
was herself the wife or mistress of one of them. She had come 
on board armed with a plot for his release, and this plot was 
about to be put in execution. He had heard of the atrocities 
perpetrated by successful mutineers. Story after story of such 
nature had often made the prison resound with horrible mirth. 
He knew the characters of the three ruffians who, separated 
from him by but two inches of planking, jested and laughed 
over their plans of freedom and vengeance. Though he con- 
versed but little with his companions, these men were his berth 
mates, and he could not but know how they would proceed to 
wreak their vengeance on their jailers. 

True, that the head of this formidable chimera — John Rex, 
the forger — was absent, but the two hands, or rather claws — the 
burglar and the prison-breaker — were present, and the slimly- 
made, effeminate Crow, if he had not the brains of his master, 
yet made up for his flaccid muscles and nerveless frame by a 
cat-like cunning, and a spirit of devilish volatility that nothing 
could subdue. With such a powerful ally outside as the mock 



54 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

maid-servant, the chance of success was enormously increased. 
There were one hundred and eighty convicts and but fifty 
soldiers. If the first rush proved successful — and the precau- 
tions taken by Sarah Purfoy rendered success possible— the 
vessel was theirs. Rufus Dawes thought of the little bright- 
haired child who had run so confidingly to meet him, and 
shuddered. 

" There ! " said the Crow, with a sneering laugh, " what do 
you think of that ? Does the girl look like nosing us now ?" 

" No," says the giant, stretching his great arms with a grin 
of delight, as one stretches one's chest in the sun, " that's right, 
that is. That ; s more like bizness." 

" England, home, and beauty ! " said Vetch, with a mock- 
heroic air, strangely out of tune with the subject under discus- 
sion. " You'd like to go home again, wouldn't you, old man ?" 

Gabbett turned on him fiercely, his low forehead wrinkled 
into a frown of ferocious recollection. 

" You!" he said — "You think the chain's fine sport, don't 
yer? But I've been there, my young chicken, and I knows 
what it means" 

There was silence for a minute or two. The giant was 
plunged in gloomy abstraction, and Vetch and the Moocher 
interchanged a significant glance. Gabbett had been ten years 
at the colonial penal settlement of Macquarie Harbour, and 
he had memories that he did not confide to his companions. 
When he indulged in one of these fits of recollection, his friends 
found it best to leave him to himself. 

Rufus Dawes did not understand the sudden silence. With 
all his senses stretched to the utmost to listen, the cessation of 
the whispered colloquy affected him strangely. Old artillery- 
men have said that, after being at work for days in the trenches, 
accustomed to the continued roar of the guns, a sudden pause 
in the firing will cause them intense pain. Something of this 
feeling was experienced by Rufus Dawes. His faculties of 
hearing and thinking— both at their highest pitch — seemed to 
break down. It was as though some prop had been knocked 
from under him. No longer stimulated by outward sounds, his 
senses appeared to fail him. The blood rushed into his eyes 
and ears. He made a violent, vain effort to retain his con- 
sciousness, but with a faint cry, fell back, striking his head 
against the e<-lge of the bunk. 



TYPHUS FEVER. 55 



The noise roused the burglar in an instant. There was some 
one in the berth ! The three looked into each other's eyes, in 
guilty alarm, and then Gabbett dashed round the partition. 

"It's Dawes!" said the Moodier. "We had forgotten 
him ! " 

" He'll join us, mate — he'll join us ! " cried Vetch, fearful of 
bloodshed. 

Gabbett uttered a furious oath, and flinging himself on to the 
prostrate figure, dragged it, head foremost, to the floor. The 
sudden vertigo had saved Rufus Dawes's life. The robber 
twisted one brawny hand in his shirt, and pressing the knuckles 
down, prepared to deliver a blow that should for ever silence 
the listener, when Vetch caught his arm. " He's been asleep," 
he cried. " Don't hit him ! See, he's not awake yet." 

A crowd gathered round. The giant relaxed his grip, but 
the convict gave only a deep groan, and allowed his head to fall 
on his shoulder. 

" You've killed him ! " cried some one. 

Gabbett took another look at the purpling face and the 
bedewed forehead, and then sprang erect, rubbing at his right 
hand, as though he would rub off something sticking there. 

" He's got the fever ! " he roared, with a terror-stricken 
grimace. 

" The what ? " asked twenty voices. 

"The Fever, ye grinning fools ! " cried Gabbett. " I've seen 
it before to-day. The Typhus is aboard, and he's the fourth 
man down ! " 

The circle of beast-like faces, stretched foiward to "see the 
fight," widened at the half-uncomprehendcd, ill-omened word. 
It was as though a bombshell had fallen into the group. Rufus 
Dawes lay on the deck motionless, breathing heavily. The 
savage circle glared at his prostrate body. The alarm ran 
round, and all the prison crowded down to stare at him. All 
at once he uttered a groan, and turning, propped his body on 
his two rigid arms, and made an effort to speak. But no sound 
issued from his convulsed jaws. 

" He's done," said the Moocher brutally. " He didn't hear 
nuffin, I'll pound it." 

The noise of the heavy bolts shooting back broke the spell. 
The first detachment were coming down from " exercise." The 
door was flung back, and the bayonets of the guard gleamed ia 



56 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

a ray of sunshine that shot down the hatchway. This glimpse 
of sunlight — sparkling at the entrance of the fcetid and stifling 
prison — seemed to mock their miseries. It was as though 
heaven laughed at them. By one of those terrible and strange 
impulses which animate crowds, the mass, turning from the 
sick man, leapt towards the doorway. The interior of the 
prison flashed white with suddenly turned faces. The gloom 
scintillated with rapidly moving hands. " Air ! air ! Give us 
air ! " 

" That's it ! " said Sanders to his companions. " I thought 
the news would rouse 'em." 

Gabbett — all the savage in his blood stirred by the sight of 
flashing eyes and wrathful faces — would have thrown himself 
forward with the rest, but Vetch plucked him back. 

" It'll be over in a moment," he said. " It's only a fit they've 
got." 

He spoke truly. Through the uproar was heard the rattle 
of iron on iron, as the guard " stood to their arms," and the 
wedge of grey cloth broke, in sudden terror of the levelled 
muskets. 

There was an instant's pause, and then old Pine walked, un- 
molested, down the prison and knelt by the body of Rufus 
Dawes. 

The sight of the familiar figure, so calmly performing its 
familiar duty, restored all that submission to recognized autho- 
rity which strict discipline begets. The convicts slunk away 
into their berths, or officiously ran to help " the doctor," with 
affectation of intense obedience. The prison was like a school- 
room, into which the master had suddenly returned. " Stand 
back, my lads ! Take him up, two of you, and carry him to 
the door. The poor fellow won't hurt you." His orders were 
obeyed, and the old man, waiting until his patient had been 
safely received outside, raised his hand to command attention. 
" I see you know what I have to tell. The fever has broken 
out. That man has got it. It is absurd to suppose that no one 
else will be seized. I might catch it myself. You are much 
crowded down here, I know ; but, my lads, I can't help that ; 
I didn't make the ship, you know." 

" 'Ear, 'ear ! " 

" It is a terrible thing, but you must keep orderly and quiet, 
and bear it like men. You know what the discipline is, and it 



A DANGEROUS CRISIS. 57 

is not in my power to alter it. I shall do my best for your com- 
fort, and I look to you to help me." 

Holding his grey head very erect indeed, the brave old fellow 
passed straight down the line, without looking to the right or 
left. 

He had said just enough, and he reached the door amid a 
chorus of "'Ear, 'ear !" "Bravo ! " "True for you, docther !" 
and so on. But when he got fairly outside, he breathed more 
freely. He had performed a ticklish task, and he knew it. 

" 'Ark at 'em," growled the Moocher from his corner, 
" a-cheerin' at the bloody noos ! " 

" Wait a bit," said the acuter intelligence of Jemmy Vetch. 
"Give 'em time. There'll be three or four more down afore 
night, and then we'll see ! " 



CHAPTER VIII. 

A DANGEROUS CRISIS. 



IT was late in the afternoon when Sarah Purfoy awoke from 
her uneasy slumber. She had been dreaming of the deed 
she was about to do, and was flushed and feverish ; but, 
mindful of the consequences which hung upon the success or 
failure of the enterprise, she rallied herself, bathed her face and 
hands, and ascended, with as calm an air as she could assume, 
to the poop-deck. 

Nothing was changed since yesterday. The sentries' arms 
glittered in the pitiless sunshine, the ship rolled and creaked on 
the swell of the dreamy sea, and the prison-cage on the lower 
deck was crowded with the same cheerless figures, disposed in 
the attitudes of the day before. Even Mr. Maurice Frere, 
recovered from his midnight fatigues, was lounging on the 
same coil of rope, in precisely the same position. 

Yet the eye of an acute observer would have detected some 
difference beneath this outward varnish of similarity. The man 
at the wheel looked round the horizon more eagerly, and spit 
into the swirling, unwholesome-looking water with a more 
dejected air than before. The fishing-lines still hung danelins 



58 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

over the catheads, but nobody touched them. The soldiers and 
sailors on the forecastle, collected in knots, had no heart even 
to smoke, but gloomily stared at each other. Vickers was in 
the cuddy writing ; Blunt was in his cabin ; and Pine, with two 
carpenters at work under his directions, was improvising in- 
creased hospital accommodation. The noise of mallet and 
hammer echoed in the soldiers' berth ominously ; the workmen 
might have been making coffins. The prison was strangely 
silent, with the lowering silence which precedes a thunder- 
storm ; and the convicts on deck no longer told stories, nor 
laughed at obscene jests, but sat together, moodily patient, as if 
waiting for something. Three men — two prisoners and a soldier 
— had succumbed since Rufus Dawes had been removed to the 
hospital ; and though as yet there had been no complaint or 
symptom of panic, the face of each man, soldier, sailor, or 
prisoner, wore an expectant look, as though he wondered whose 
turn would come next. On the ship — rolling ceaselessly from 
side to side, like a wounded creature, on the opaque pro- 
fundity of that stagnant ocean— a horrible shadow had fallen. 
The Malabar seemed to be enveloped in an electric cloud, 
whose sullen gloom a chance spark might flash into a blaze 
that should consume her. 

The woman who held in her hands the two ends of the chain 
that would produce this spark, paused, came up upon deck, 
and, after a glance round, leant against the poop-railing and 
looked down into the barricade. As we have said, the prisoners 
were in knots of four and five, and to one group in particular 
her glance was directed. Three men, leaning carelessly against 
the bulwarks, watched her every motion. 

" There she is, right enough," growled Mr. Gabbett, as if in 
continuation of a previous remark. " Flash as ever, and look- 
ing this way, too." 

" I don't see no wipe," said the practical Moodier. 

" Patience is a virtue, most noble knuckler ! " says the Crow, 
with affected carelessness. " Give the young woman time." 

"Blowed if I'm going to wait no longer," says the giant, 
licking his coarse blue lips. " 'Ere we've been bluffed off day 
arter day, and kep' dancin' round the Dandy's wench like a 
parcel o' dogs. The fever's aboard, and we've got all ready. 
What's the use o' waitin'? Orfice, or no orfice, I'm for bizniss 
at once ! " 



A DANGEROUS CRISIS. 59 

" There, look at that," he added, with an oath, as the 

figure of Maurice Frere appeared side by side with that of the 
waiting-maid, and the two turned away up the deck together. 

" It's all right, you confounded muddlehead ! " cried the Crow, 
losing patience with his perverse and stupid companion. " How 
can she give us the office with that cove at her elbow ? " 

Gabbett's only reply to this question was a ferocious grunt, 
and a sudden elevation of his clenched first, which caused Mr. 
Vetch to retreat precipitately. The giant did not follow ; and 
Mr. Vetch, folding his arms, and assuming an attitude of easy 
contempt, directed his attention to Sarah Purfoy. She seemed 
an object of general attraction, for at the same moment a young 
soldier ran up the ladder to the forecastle, and eagerly bent his 
gaze in her direction. 

Maurice Frere had come behind her and touched her on the 
shoulder. Since their conversation the previous evening, he 
had made up his mind to be fooled no longer. The girl was 
evidently playing with him, and he would show her that he was 
not to be trifled with. 

" Well, Sarah ! " 

" Well, Mr. Frere," dropping her hand, and turning round 
with a smile. 

" How well you are looking to-day ! Positively lovely ! " 

" You have told me that so often," says she, with a pout. 
" Have you nothing else to say ? " 

"Except that I love you." This in a most impassioned 
manner. 

" That is no news. I know you do." 

"Curse it, Sarah, what is a fellow to do?" His profligacy 
was failing him rapidly. " What is the use of playing fast and 
loose with a fellow this way?" 

"A ' fellow' should be able to take care of himself, Mr. Frere. 
I didn't ask you to fall in love with me, did I ? If you don't 
please me, it is not your fault, perhaps." 

" What do you mean ? " 

" You soldiers have so many things to think of— your guards 
and sentries, and visits and things. You have no time to spare 
for a poor woman like me." 

" Spare ! " cries Frere, in amazement. " Why, damme, you 
won't let a fellow spare ! I'd spare fast enough, it' that was all." 

She cast her eyes down to the deck, and a modest flush rose 



60 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

in her cheeks. " I have -so much to do," she said, in a half- 
whisper. "There are so many eyes upon me, I cannot stir 
without being seen." 

She raised her head as she spoke, and to give effect to her 
words, looked round the deck. Her glance crossed that of the 
young soldier on the forecastle, and though the distance was 
too great for her to distinguish his features, she guessed who he 
was — Miles was jealous. Frere, smiling with delight at her 
change of manner, came close to her, and whispered in her ear. 
She affected to start, and took the opportunity of exchanging a 
signal with the Crow. 

" I will come at eight o'clock," said she, with modestly averted 
face. 

" They relieve guard at eight," he said, deprecatingly. 

She tossed her head. "Very well, then, attend to your guard ; 
/ don't care." 

" But, Sarah, consider " 

" As if a woman in love ever considers ! " said she, turning 
upon him a burning glance, which in truth might have melted 
a more icy man than he. 

She loved him then ! What a fool he would be to 

refuse. To get her to come was the first object ; how to make 
duty fit with pleasure would be considered afterwards. Besides, 
the guard could relieve itself for once without his supervision. 

" Very well, at eight then, dearest." 

" Hush ! " said she. " Here comes that stupid captain." 

And as Frere left her, she turned, and, with her eyes fixed on 
the convict barricade, dropped the handkerchief she held in her 
hand over the poop railing. It fell at the feet of the amorous 
captain, and with a quick upward glance, that worthy fellow 
picked it up, and brought it to her. 

"Oh, thank you, Captain Blunt," said she, and her eyes 
spoke more than her tongue. 

"Did you take the laudanum?" whispered Blunt, with a 
twinkle in his eye. 

" Some of it," said she. " I will bring you back the bottle 
to-night." 

Blunt walked aft, humming cheerily, and saluted Frere with 
a slap on the back. The two men laughed, each at his own 
thoughts, but their laughter only made the surrounding gloom 
seem deeper than before. 



A DANGEROUS CRISIS. 61 

Sarah Purfoy, casting her eyes toward the barricade, observed 
a change in the position of the three men. They were together 
once more, and the Crow, having taken off his prison cap, held 
it at arm's length with one hand, while he wiped his brow with 
the other. Her signal had been observed. 

During all this, Rufus Dawes, removed to the hospital, was 
lying flat on his back, staring at the deck above him, trying to 
think of something he wanted to say. 

When the sudden faintness, which was the prelude to his 
sickness, had overpowered him, he remembered being torn 
out of his bunk by fierce hands — remembered a vision of 
savage faces, and the presence of some danger that menaced 
him. He remembered that, while lying on his blankets, 
struggling with the coming fever, he had overheard a con- 
versation of vital importance to himself and to the ship, but 
of the purport of that conversation he had not the least idea. 
In vain he strove to remember— in vain his will, struggling with 
delirium, brought back snatches and echoes of sense ; they 
slipped from him again as fast as caught. He was oppressed 
with the weight of half-recollected thought. He knew that a 
terrible danger menaced him ; that could he but force his brain 
to reason connectedly for ten consecutive minutes, he could give 
such information as would avert that danger, and save the ship. 
But, lying with hot head, parched lips, and enfeebled body, he 
was as one possessed — he could move nor hand nor foot. 

The place where he lay was but dimly lighted. The ingenuity 
of Pine had constructed a canvas blind over the port, to prevent 
the sun striking into the cabin, and this blind absorbed much of 
the light. He could but just see the deck above his head, and 
distinguish the outlines of three other berths, apparently similar 
to his own. The only sounds that broke the silence were the 
gurgling of the water below him, and the Tap tap, Tap tap, of 
Pine's hammers at work upon the new partition. By-and-by 
the noise of these hammers ceased, and then the sick man 
could hear gasps, and moans, and muttcrings — the signs that 
his companions yet lived. 

All at once a voice called out, " Of course his bills are worth 
four hundred pounds ; but, my good sir, four hundred pounds 
to a man in my position is not worth the getting. Why, I've 
given four hundred pounds for a freak of my girl Sarah ! Is it 
right, eh, Jezebel ? She's a good girl, though, as girls go. 



62 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

Mrs. Lionel Crofton, of the Crofts, Sevenoaks, Kent — Sevenoaks, 
Kent — Seven : ' 

A gleam of light broke in on the darkness which wrapped 
Rufus Dawes' tortured brain. The man was John Rex, his 
berth mate. With an effort he spoke. 

" Rex ! " 

"Yes, yes. I'm coming ; don't be in a hurry. The sentry's 
safe, and the howitzer is but five paces from the door. A rush 
upon deck, lads, and she's ours ! That is, mine. Mine and my 
wife's, Mrs. Lionel Crofton, of Seven Crofts, no oaks — Sarah Pur- 
foy, lady's-maid and nurse — ha ! ha ! — lady's-maid and nurse ! " 

This last sentence contained the name-clue to the labyrinth 
in which Rufus Dawes' bewildered intellects were wandering. 
" Sarah Purfoy ! " He remembered now each detail of the 
conversation he had so strangely overheard, and how impera- 
tive it was that he should, without delay, reveal the plot that 
threatened the ship. How that plot was to be carried out, 
he did not pause to consider ; he was conscious that he was 
hanging over the brink of delirium, and that, unless he made 
himself understood before his senses utterly deserted him, all 
was lost. 

He attempted to rise, but found that his fever-thralled limbs 
refused to obey the impulse of his will. He made an effort to 
speak, but his tongue clove to the roof of his mouth, and his 
jaws stuck together. He could not raise a finger nor utter a 
sound. The boards over his head waved like a shaken sheet, 
and the cabin whirled round, while the patch of light at his 
feet bobbed up and down like the reflection from a wavering 
candle. He closed his eyes with a terrible sigh of despair, and 
resigned himself to his fate. At that instant the sound of 
hammering ceased, and the door opened. It was six o'clock, 
and Pine had come to have a last look at his patients before 
dinner. It seemed that there was somebody with him, for a 
kind, though somewhat pompous, voice remarked upon the 
scantiness of accommodation, and the " necessity — the absolute 
necessity" — of complying with the King's Regulations. 

Honest Vickers, though agonized for the safety of his child, 
would not abate a jot of his duty, and had sternly come to visit 
the sick men, aware as he was that such a visit would necessi- 
tate his isolation from the cabin where his child lay. Mrs. 
Vickers — weeping and bewailing herself coquettishly at garrison 



A DANGEROUS CRISIS. 63 

parties— had often said that "poor dear John was such a 
disciplinarian, quite a slave to the service." 

"Here they are," said Pine; "six of 'em. This fellow"— 
going to the side of Rex— "is the worst. If he had not a 
constitution like a horse, I don't think he could live out the 
night." 

" Three, eighteen, seven, four," muttered Rex ; " dot and 
carry one. Is that an occupation for a gentleman ? No, sir. 
Good-night, my lord, good-night. Hark ! The clock is striking 
nine ; five, six, seven, eight ! Well, you've had your day, and 
can't complain." 

"A dangerous fellow," says Pine, with the light upraised. 
"A very dangerous fellow— that is, he was. This is the place, 
you see— a regular rat-hole ; but what can one do? " 

" Come, let us get on deck," said Vickers, with a shudder of 
disgust. 

Rufus Dawes felt the sweat break out into beads on his 
forehead. They suspected nothing. They were going away. 
He must warn them. With a violent effort, in his agony he 
turned over in the bunk and thrust out his hand from the 
blankets. 

" Hullo ! what's this ? " cried Pine, bringing the lantern to 
bear upon it. " Lie down, my man. Eh !— water, is it ? 
There, steady with it now ; " and he lifted a pannikin to the 
blackened, froth-fringed lips. The cool draught moistened his 
parched gullet, and the convict made a last effort to speak. 

" Sarah Purfoy— to-night— the prison— Mutiny !" 

The last word, almost shrieked out, in the sufferer's desperate 
efforts to articulate, recalled the wandering senses of John 
Rex. 

"Hush !" he cried. "Is that you, Jemmy? Sarah's right. 
Wait till she gives the word." . 

" He's raving," said Vickers. 

Pine caught the convict by the shoulder. "What do you say, 
my man ? A mutiny of the prisoners ! " 

With his mouth agape and his hands clenched, Rufus Dawes, 
incapable of further speech, made a last effort to nod assent, but 
his head fell upon his breast ; the next moment, the flickering 
light, the gloomy prison, the eager face of the doctor, and the 
astonished face of Vickers, vanished from before his straining 
eyes. He saw the two men stare at each other, in mingled 



6 4 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



incredulity and alarm, and then he was floating down the cool 
brown river of his boyhood, on his way — in company with 
Sarah Purfoy and Lieutenant Frere— to raise the mutiny in 
the Hydaspes, that lay on the stocks in the old house at 
Hampstead. 



CHAPTER IX. 

woman's weapons. 



THE two discoverers of this awkward secret held a council 
of war. Vickers was for at once calling the guard, and 
announcing to the prisoners that the plot — whatever it 
might be— had been discovered ; but Pine, accustomed to 
convict ships, overruled this decision. 

"You don't know these fellows as well as I do," said he. 
" In the first place there may be no mutiny at all. The whole 
thing is, perhaps, some absurdity of that fellow Dawes— and 
should we once put the notion of attacking us into the prisoners' 
heads, there is no telling what they might do." 

" But the man seemed certain," said the other. " He men 
tioned my wife's maid, too !" 

" Suppose he did ?— and, begad, I daresay he's right, — I never 
liked the look of the girl. To tell them that we have found 
them out this time won't prevent 'em trying it again. We don't 
know what their scheme is either. If it is a mutiny, half the 
ship's company may be in it. No, Captain Vickers, allow me, 
as surgeon-superintendent, to settle our course of action. You 
are aware that " 

" That, by the King's Regulations, you are invested with 

full powers," interrupted Vickers, mindful of discipline in any 
extremity. " Of course, I merely suggested— and I know no- 
thing about the girl, except that she brought a good character 
from her last mistress — a Mrs. Crofton I think the name was. 
We were glad to get anybody to make a voyage like this." 

"Well." says Pine, "look here. Suppose we tell these 
scoundrels that their design, whatever it may be, is known. 
Very good. They will profess absolute ignorance, and try again 
on the next opportunity, when, perhaps, we may not know any- 
thing about it. At all events, we are completely ignorant of the 



WOMAN'S WEAPONS. 65 

nature of the plot and the names of the ringleaders. Let us 
double the sentries, and quietly get the men under arms. Let 
Miss Sarah do what she pleases, and when the mutiny breaks 
out, we will nip it in the bud ; clap all the villains we get in 
irons, and hand them over to the authorities in Hobart Town. 
I am not a cruel man, sir, but we have got a cargo of wild beasts 
aboard, and we must be careful." 

" But surely, Mr. Pine, have you considered the probable loss 
of life? I — really — some more humane course. Prevention, 

you know " 

Pine turned round upon him with that grim practicality which 
was a part of his nature. " Have you considered the safety of 
the ship, Captain Vickers? You know, or have heard of, the 
sort of things that take place in these mutinies. Have you con- 
sidered what will befall those half-dozen women in the soldiers' 
berths ? Have you thought of the fate of your own wife and 
child?" 

Vickers shuddered. 

" Have it your way, Mr. Pine ; you know best perhaps. But 
don't risk more lives than you can help." 

" Be easy, sir," says old Pine ; " I am acting for the best ; 
upon my soul I am. You don't know what convicts are, or 

rather what the law has made 'em— yet " 

" Poor wretches !" says Vickers, who, like many martinets, 
was in reality tender-hearted. " Kindness might do much for 
them. After all, they are our fellow-creatures." 

" Yes," returned the other, " they are. But if you use that 
argument to them when they have taken the vessel, it won't 
avail you much. Let me manage, sir ; and for God's sake, say 
nothing to anybody. Our lives may hang upon a word." 

Vickers promised, and kept his promise so far as to chat 
cheerily with Blunt and Frere at dinner, only writing a brief note 
to his wife to tell her that, whatever she heard, she was not to 
stir from her cabin until he came to her ; he knew that, with all 
his wife's folly, she would obey unhesitatingly when he couched 
an order in such terms. 

According to the usual custom on board convict ships, the 
guards relieved each other every two hours, and at six p.m. the 
poop guard was removed to the quarter-deck, and the arms 
which, in the day-time, were disposed on the top of the arm- 
chest, were placed in an arm-rack constructed on the quarter- 

5 



66 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

deck for that purpose. Trusting nothing to Frere — who, indeed, 
by Pine's advice, was, as we have seen, kept in ignorance of the 
whole matter — Vickers ordered all the men, save those who had 
been on guard during the day, to be under arms in the barrack, 
forbade communication with the upper deck, and placed as 
sentry at the barrack door his own servant, an old soldier, on 
whose fidelity he could thoroughly rely. He then doubled the 
guards, took the keys of the prison himself from the non-com- 
missioned officer whose duty it was to keep them, and saw that 
the howitzer on the lower deck was loaded with grape. It was 
a quarter to seven when Pine and he took their station at the 
main hatchway, determined to watch until morning. 

At a quarter past seven, any curious person looking through 
the window of Captain Blunt's cabin would have seen an un- 
usual sight. That gallant commander was sitting on the bed- 
place, with a glass of rum and water in his hand, and the 
handsome waiting-maid of Mrs. Vickers was seated on a stool 
by his side. At a first glance it was perceptible that the captain 
was very drunk. His grey hair was matted all ways about his 
reddened face, and he was winking and blinking like an owl in 
the sunshine. Pie had drunk a larger quantity of wine than 
usual at dinner, in sheer delight at the approaching assignation, 
and having got out the rum bottle for a quiet " settler" just as 
the victim of his fascinations glided through the carefully-adjusted 
door, he had been persuaded to go on drinking. 

" Cue-come, Sarah," he hiccuped. " It's all very fine, my 
lass, but you needn't be so — hie — proud, you know. I'm a plain 
sailor — plain s'lor, Srr'h. Ph'n'as Bub — blunt, commander of 
the Mal-Mal- Malabar. Wors' 'sh good talkin' ? " 

Sarah allowed a laugh to escape her, and artfully protruded 
an ankle at the same time. The amorous Phineas lurched over, 
and made shift to take her hand. 

" You lovsh me, and I— hie — lovsh you, Sarah. And a preshus 
tight little craft you — hie — are. Giv'sh — kiss, Sarah." 

Sarah got up and went to the door. 

" Wotsh this ? Goin' ! Sarah, don't go," and he staggered 
up ; and, with the grog swaying fearfully in one hand, made 
at her. 

The ship's bell struck seven. Now or never was the time. 
Blunt caught her round the waist with one arm, and hiccupin«- 
with love and rum, approached to take the kiss he coveted, 



WOMAN'S WEAPONS. 67 



She seized the moment, surrendered herself to his embrace, 
drew from her pocket the laudanum bottle, and passing her 
hand over his shoulder, poured half its contents into the glass. 
" Think I'm— hie— drunk, do yer ? Nun-not I, my wench." 
" You will be if you drink much more. Come, finish that and 
be quiet, or I'll go away." 

But she threw a provocation into her glance as she spoke, 
which belied her words, and which penetrated even the sodden 
intellect of poor Blunt. He balanced himself on his heels for a 
moment, and holding by the moulding of the cabin, stared at 
her with a fatuous smile of drunken admiration, then looked at 
the glass in his hand, hiccuped with much solemnity thrice, 
and, as though struck with a sudden sense of duty unfulfilled, 
swallowed the contents at a gulp. The effect was almost instan- 
taneous. He dropped the tumbler, lurched towards the woman 
at the door, and then making a half turn in accordance with 
the motion of the vessel, fell into his bunk, and snored like a 
grampus. 

Sarah Purfoy watched him for a few minutes, and then having 
blown out the light, stepped out of the cabin, and closed the 
door behind her. The dusky gloom which had held the deck 
on the previous night enveloped all forward of the mainmast. 
A lantern swung in the forecastle, and swayed with the motion 
of the ship. The light at the prison door threw a glow through 
the open hatch, and in the cuddy, at her right hand, the usual 
row of oil-lamps burned. She looked mechanically for Vickers, 
who was ordinarily there at that hour, but the cuddy was empty. 
So much the better, she thought, as she drew her dark cloak 
around her, and tapped at Frere's door. As she did so, a 
strange pain shot through her temples, and her knees trembled. 
With a strong effort she dispelled the dizziness that had almost 
overpowered her, and held herself erect. It would never do to 
break down now. 

The door opened, and Maurice Frere drew her into the cabin. 
u So you have come ? " said he. 

" You see I have. But, oh ! if I should be seen ! " 

" Seen ? Nonsense ! Who is to see you ?" 

" Captain Vickers, Doctor Pine, anybody." 

" Not they. Besides, they've gone off down to Pine's cabin 
since dinner. They're all right.'' 

Gone off to Pine's rabin ! The intelligence struck her with 



68 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

dismay. What was the cause of such an unusual proceeding ? 
Surely they did not suspect ? " What do they want there ? " 
she asked. 

Maurice Frere was not in the humour to argue questions of 
probability. " Who knows ? I don't. Confound 'em," he added, 
" what does it matter to us ? We don't want them, do we, 
Sarah ? " 

She seemed to be listening for something, and did not reply. 
Her nervous system was wound up to the highest pitch of ex- 
citement. The success of the plot depended on the next five 
minutes. 

" What are you staring at ? Look at me, can't you ? What 
eyes you have ! And what hair ! " 

At that instant the report of a musket-shot broke the silence. 
The mutiny had begun ! 

The sound awoke the soldier to a sense of his duty. He sprang 
io his feet, and disengaging the arms that clung about his neck, 
made for the door. The moment for which the convict's accom- 
plice had waited, approached. She hung upon him with all her 
weight. Her long hair swept across his face, her warm breath 
was on his cheek, her dress exposed her round, smooth shoulder. 
He, intoxicated, conquered, had half turned back, when sud- 
denly the rich crimson died away from her lips, leaving them 
an ashen grey colour. Her eyes closed in agony, loosing her 
hold of him, she staggered to her feet, pressed her hands upon 
her bosom, and uttered a sharp cry of pain. 

The fever which had been on her for two days, and which, by 
a strong exercise of will, she had struggled against, — encouraged 
by the violent excitement of the occasion, had attacked her at 
this supreme moment. Deathly pale and sick, she reeled to the 
side of the cabin. 

There was another shot, and a violent clashing of arms ; and 
Frere, leaving the miserable woman to her fate, leapt out on to 
the deck. 



EIGHT BELLS. 69 



CHAPTER X. 
EIGHT BELLS. 

AT seven o'clock there had been also a commotion in the 
prison. The news of the fever had awoke in the convicts 
all that love of liberty which had but slumbered during 
the monotony of the earlier part of the voyage. Now that death 
menaced them, they longed fiercely for the chance of escape 
which seemed permitted to freemen. " Let us go out ! " they 
said, each man speaking to his particular friend. " We are 
locked up here to die like sheep." Gloomy faces and despond- 
ing looks met the gaze of each, and sometimes across this gloom 
shot a fierce glance that lighted up its blackness, as a lightning- 
flash renders luridly luminous the indigo dulness of a thunder- 
cloud. By-and-bye, in some inexplicable way, it came to be 
understood that there was a conspiracy afloat, that they were 
to be released from their shambles, that some amongst them 
had been plotting their freedom. The 'tween decks held its foul 
breath in wondering anxiety, afraid to breathe its suspicions. 
The influence of this predominant idea showed itself by a 
strange shifting of atoms. The mass of villainy, ignorance, and 
innocence began to be animated with something like a uniform 
movement. Natural affinities came together, and like allied 
itself to like, falling noiselessly into harmony, as the pieces of 
glass and coloured beads in a kaleidoscope assume mathe- 
matical forms. By seven bells it was found that the prison was 
divided into three parties — the desperate, the timid, and the 
cautious. These three parties had arranged themselves in 
natural sequence. The mutineers, headed by Gabbett, Vetch, 
and the Moocher, were nearest to the door ; the timid — boys, 
old men, innocent poor wretches condemned on circumstantial 
evidence, or rustics condemned to be turned into thieves for 
pulling a turnip — were at the farther end, huddling together in 
alarm ; and the prudent — that is to say, all the rest, ready to 
fight or fly, advance or retreat, assist the authorities or their 
companions, as the fortune of the day might direct — occupied 
the middle space. The mutineers proper numbered, perhaps, 
some thirty men, and of these thirty only half a dozen knew 
what was really about to be done. 



70 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

The ship's bell strikes the half-hour, and as the cries of the 
three sentries passing the word to the quarter-deck die away, 
Gabbett, who has been leaning with his back against the door, 
nudges Jemmy Vetch. 

" Now, Jemmy," says he in a whisper, " Tell 'em ! " 

The whisper being heard by those nearest the giant, a silence 
ensues, which gradually spreads like a ripple over the surface of 
the crowd, reaching even the bunks at the further end. 

" Gentlemen," says Mr. Vetch, politely sarcastic in his own 
hang-dog fashion, " myself and my friends here are going to take 
the ship for you. Those who like to join us had better speak at 
once, for in about half an hour they will not have the opportunity." 

He pauses, and looks round with such an impertinently con- 
fident air, that three waverers in the party amidships slip nearer 
to hear him. 

" You needn't be afraid," Mr. Vetch continues, " we have 
arranged it all for you. There are friends waiting for us outside, 
and the door will be open directly. All we want, gentlemen, is 
your wote and interest — I mean your " 

" Gaffing agin ! " interrupts the giant, angrily. " Come to 
business, carn't yer? Tell 'em they may like it or lump it, 
but we mean to have the ship, and them as refuses to join us 
we mean to chuck overboard. That's about the plain English 
of it!" 

This practical way of putting it produces a sensation, and the 
conservative party at the other end look in each other's faces 
with some alarm. A grim murmur runs round, and somebody 
near Mr. Gabbett laughs a laugh of mingled ferocity and amuse- 
ment, not reassuring to timid people. 

" What about the sogers ? " asks a voice from out the ranks 
of the cautious. 

" D the sogers ! " cries the Moocher, moved by a sudden 

inspiration. " They can but shoot yer, and that's as good as 
dyin' of typhus any way ! " 

The right chord had been struck now, and with a stifled roar 
the prison admitted the truth of the sentiment. " Go on, old 
man ! " cries Jemmy Vetch to the giant, rubbing his thin hands 
with eldritch glee. " They're all right ! " And then, his quick 
ears catching the jingle of arms, he adds, " Stand by now for 
the door — one rush '11 do it." 

It was eight o'clock, and the relief guard was coming from 



EIGHT BELLS. 71 



the after deck. The crowd of prisoners round the door held 
their breath to listen. "It's all planned," says Gabbett, in a low 
growl. " Wen the door hopens we rush, and we're in among 
the guard afore they know where they are. Drag 'em back 
into the prison, grab the h'arm rack, and it's all over." 

" They're very quiet about it," says the Crow, suspiciously. 
" I hope it's all right." 

" Stand from the door, Miles," says Pine's voice outside, in 
its usual calm accents. 

The Crow was relieved. The tone was an ordinary one, and 
Miles was the soldier whom Sarah Purfoyhad bribed not to fire. 
All had gone well. 

The keys clashed and turned, and the bravest of the prudent 
party, who had been turning in his mind the notion of risking 
his life for a pardon, to be won by rushing forward at the right 
moment and alarming the guard, checked the cry that was in 
his throat as he saw the men round the door draw back a little 
for their rush, and caught a glimpse of the giant's bristling scalp 
and bared gums. 

"NOW !" cries Jemmy Vetch, as the iron-plated oak swung 
back, and with the guttural snarl of a charging wild boar, Gab- 
bett hurled himself out of the prison. 

The red line of light which glowed for an instant through the 
doorway was blotted out by a mass of figures. All the prison 
surged forward, and before the eye could wink, five, ten, twenty, 
of the most desperate were outside. It was as though a sea, 
breaking against a stone wall, had found some breach through 
which to pour its waters. The contagion of battle spread. 
Caution was forgotten ; and those at the back, seeing Jemmy 
Vetch raised up on the crest of that human billow which reared 
its black outline against an indistinct perspective of struggling 
figures, responded to his grin of encouragement by rushing 
furiously forward. 

Suddenly a horrible roar like that of a trapped wild beast was 
heard. The rushing torrent choked in the doorway, and from 
out the lantern glow into which the giant had rushed, a flash 
broke, followed by a groan, as the perfidious sentry fell back shot 
through the breast. The mass in the doorway hung irresolute, 
and then by sheer weight of pressure from behind burst for- 
wards, and as it so burst, the heavy door crashed into its jambs, 
and the bolts were shot into their places. 



72 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

All this took place by one of those simultaneous movements 
which are so rapid in execution, so tedious to describe in detail. 
At one instant the prison door had opened, at the next it had 
closed. The picture which had presented itself to the eyes of 
the convicts was as momentary as are those of the thaumato- 
scope. The period of time that had elapsed between the 
opening and the shutting of the door could have been marked 
by the musket shot. 

The report of another shot, and then a noise of confused cries, 
mingled with the clashing of arms, informed the imprisoned 
men that the ship had been alarmed. How would it go with 
their friends on deck ? Would they succeed in overcoming the 
guards, or would they be beaten back ? They would soon know ; 
I and in the hot dusk, straining their eyes to see each other, they 
waited for the issue. Suddenly the noises ceased, and a strange 
rumbling sound fell upon the ears of the listeners. 



What had taken place ? 

This— the men pouring out of the darkness into the sudden 
glare of the lanterns, rushed, bewildered, across the deck. Miles, 
true to his promise, did not fire, but the next instant Vickers 
had snatched the firelock from him, and leaping into the stream, 
turned about and fired down towards the prison. The attack 
was more sudden than he had expected, but he did not lose his 
presence of mind. The shot would serve a double purpose. It 
would warn the men in the barrack, and perhaps check the rush 
by stopping up the doorway with a corpse. Beaten back, strug- 
gling, and indignant, amid the storm of hideous faces, his 
humanity vanished, and he aimed deliberately at the head of 
Mr. James Vetch ; the shot, however, missed its mark, and 
killed the unhappy Miles. 

Gabbett and his companions had by this time reached the foot 
; of the companion ladder, there to encounter the cutlasses of the 
| doubled guard gleaming redly in the glow of the lanterns. A 
glance up the hatchway showed the giant that the arms he had 
planned to seize were defended by ten firelocks, and that, behind 
the open doors of the partition which ran abaft the mizenmast, 
the remainder of the detachment stood to their arms. Even 
his dull intellect comprehended that the desperate project had 
failed, and that he had been betrayed. With the roar of despair 



EIGHT BELLS. 73 



which had penetrated into the prison, he turned to fight his way- 
back, just in time to see the crowd in the gangway recoil from 
the flash of the musket fired by Vickers. The next instant, Pine 
and two soldiers, taking advantage of the momentary cessation 
of the press, shot the bolts, and secured the prison. 

The mutineers were caught in a trap. 

The narrow space between the barracks and the barricade was 
choked with struggling figures. Some twenty convicts, and half 
as many soldiers, struck and stabbed at each other in the crowd. 
There was barely elbowroom, and attacked and attackers fought 
almost without knowing whom they struck. Gabbett tore a 
cutlass from a soldier, shook his huge head, and calling on the 
Moocher to follow, bounded up the ladder, desperately deter- 
mined to brave the fire of the watch. The Moocher, close at 
the giant's heels, flung himself upon the nearest soldier, and 
grasping his wrist, struggled for the cutlass. A brawny, bull- 
necked fellow next him dashed his clenched fist in the 
soldier's face, and the man, maddened by the blow, let go the 
cutlass, and drawing his pistol, shot his new assailant through 
the head. It was this second shot that had aroused Maurice 
Frere. 

As the young lieutenant sprang out upon the deck, he saw by 
the position of the guard that others had been more mindful of 
the safety of the ship than he. There was, however, no time for 
explanation, for, as he reached the hatchway, he was met by the 
ascending giant, who uttered a hideous oath at the sight of this 
unexpected adversary, and, too close to strike him, locked him 
in his arms. The two men went down together. The guard on 
the quarter-deck dared not fire at the two bodies that, twined 
about each other, rolled across the deck, and for a moment 
Mr. Frerc's cherished existence hung upon the slenderest thread 
imaginable. 

The Moocher, spattered with the blood and brains of his 
unfortunate comrade, had already set his foot upon the lowest 
step of the ladder, when the cutlass was dashed from his hand 
by a blow from a clubbed firelock, and he was dragged roughly 
backwards. As he fell upon the deck, he saw the Crow spring 
out of the mass of prisoners who had been, an instant before, 
struggling with the guard, and, gaining the cleared space at the 
bottom of the ladder, hold up his hands, as though to shield 
himself from a blow. The confusion had become suddenly 



74 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

stilled, and upon the group before the barricade had fallen 
that mysterious silence which had perplexed the inmates of 
the prison. 

They were not perplexed for long. The two soldiers who, 
with the assistance of Pine, had forced-to the door of the prison, 
rapidly unbolted that trap door in the barricade, of which 
mention has been made in a previous chapter, and, at a signal 
from Vickers, three men ran the loaded howitzer from its sinister 
shelter near the break of the barrack berths, and training the 
deadly muzzle to a level with the opening in the barricade, stood 
ready to fire. 

"Surrender!" cried Vickers, in a voice from which all 
"humanity" had vanished. "Surrender, and give up your 
ringleaders, or I'll blow you to pieces !" 

There was no tremor in his voice, and though he stood, with 
Pine by his side, at the very mouth of the levelled cannon, the 
mutineers perceived, with that acuteness which imminent danger 
brings to the most stolid of brains, that, did they hesitate an 
instant, he would keep his word. There was an awful moment 
of silence, broken only by a skurrying noise in the prison, as 
though a family of rats, disturbed at a flour cask, were scamper- 
ing to the ship's side for shelter. 

This skurrying noise was made by the convicts rushing to 
their berths to escape the threatened shower of grape ; to the 
twenty desperadoes cowering before the muzzle of the howitzer 
it spoke more eloquently than words. The charm was broken ; 
their comrades would refuse to join them. The position ot 
affairs at this crisis was a strange one. From the opened trap- 
door came a sort of subdued murmur, like that which sounds 
within the folds of a sea-shell, but, in the oblong block of dark- 
ness which it framed, nothing was visible. The trap-door might 
have been a window looking into a tunnel. On each side of this 
horrible window, almost pushed before it by the pressure of one 
upon the other, stood Pine, Vickers, and the guard. In front of 
the little group lay the corpse of the miserable boy whom Sarah 
Purfoy had led to ruin ; and forced close upon, yet shrinking 
back from, the trampled and bloody mass, crouched, in mingled 
terror and rage, the twenty mutineers. Behind the mutineers, 
withdrawn from the patch of light thrown by the open hatchway, 
the mouth of the howitzer threatened destruction ; and behind 
the howitzer, backed up by an array of brown musket barrels, 



EIGHT BELLS. 75 



sullenly glowed the tiny fire of the burning match in the hand 
of Vickers's trusty servant. 

The entrapped men looked up the hatchway, but the guard 
had already closed in upon it, and some of the ship's crew — 
with that carelessness of danger characteristic of sailors — were 
peering down upon them. Escape was hopeless. 

" One minute ! '' cried Vickers, confident that one second 
would be enough — " one minute to go quietly, or " 

" Surrender, mates, for God's sake ! " shrieked some unknown 
wretch from out of the darkness of the prison. " Do you want 
to be the death of us ? " 

Jemmy Vetch, feeling, by that curious sympathy which ner- 
vous natures possess, that his comrades wished him to act as 
spokesman, raised his shrill tones. " We surrender," he said . 
" It's no use getting our brains blown out." And raising his 
hands, he obeyed the motion of Vickers's finger, and led the 
way towards the barrack. 

" Bring the irons forward, there ! " shouted Vickers, hastening 
from his perilous position ; and before the last man had filed 
past the still smoking match, the clink of hammers announced 
that the Crow had resumed those fetters which had been knocked 
off his dainty limbs a month previously in the Bay of Biscay. 

In another moment the trap-door was closed, the howitzer 
rumbled back to its cleatings, and the prison breathed again. 



In the meantime, a scene almost as exciting had taken place 
on the upper deck. Gabbett, with the blind fury which the 
consciousness of failure brings to such brute-like natures, had 
seized Frcrc by the throat, determined to put an end to at 
least one of his enemies. But desperate though he was, and 
with all the advantage of weight and strength upon his side, he 
found the young lieutenant a more formidable adversary than 
he had anticipated. 

Maurice Frcre was no coward. Brutal and selfish though lie 
might be, his bitterest enemies had never accused him of lack 
of physical courage. Indeed, he had been— in the rollicking 
days of old that were gone — celebrated for the display of very 
opposite qualities. He was an amateur at manly sports. He 
rejoiced in his muscular strength, and, in many a tavern brawl 
and midnight riot of his own provoking, had proved the fallacy 



76 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

of the proverb which teaches that a bully is always a coward. 
He had the tenacity of a bulldog, — once let him get his teeth 
in his adversary, and he would hold on till he died. In fact he 
was, as far as personal vigour went, a Gabbett with the education 
of a prize-fighter ; and, in a personal encounter between two 
men of equal courage, science tells more than strength. In the 
struggle, however, that was now taking place, science seemed to 
be of little value. To the inexperienced eye, it would appear 
that the frenzied giant, griping the throat of the man who had 
fallen beneath him, must rise from the struggle an easy victor. 
Brute force was all that was needed, — there was neither room 
nor time for the display of cunning of fence. 

But knowledge, though it cannot give strength, gives coolness. 
Taken by surprise as he was, Maurice Frere did not lose his 
presence of mind. The convict was so close upon him, that 
there was no time to strike ; but, as he was forced backwards, 
he succeeded in crooking his knee round the thigh of his assail- 
ant, and thrust one hand into his collar. Over and over they 
rolled, the bewildered sentry not daring to fire, until the ship's 
side brought them up with a violent jerk, and Frere realized 
that Gabbett was below him. Pressing with all the might of 
his muscles, he strove to resist the leverage which the giant was 
applying to turn him over, but he might as well have pushed 
against a stone wall. With his eyes protruding, and every 
sinew strained to its uttermost, he was slowly forced round, and 
he felt Gabbett releasing his grasp, in order to draw back and 
aim at him an effectual blow. Disengaging his left hand, Frere 
suddenly allowed himself to sink, and then drawing up his right 
knee, struck Gabbett beneath the jaw, and as the huge head was 
forced backwards by the blow, dashed his fist into the brawny 
throat. The giant reeled backwards, and falling on his hands 
and knees, was in an instant surrounded by sailors. 

Now began and ended, in less time than it takes to write it, 
one of those Homeric struggles of one man against twenty, 
which are none the less heroic because the Ajax is a convict? 
and the Trojans merely ordinary sailors. Shaking his assail- 
ants to the deck as easily as a wild boar shakes off the dogs 
which clamber upon his bristly sides, the convict sprang to his 
feet, and whirling the snatched-up cutlass round his head, kept 
the circle at bay. Four times did the soldiers round the hatch- 
way raise their muskets, and four times did the fear of wounding 



EIGHT BELLS. 77 

the men who had flung themselves upon the enraged giant 
compel them to restrain their fire. Gabbett, his stubbly hair on 
end, his bloodshot eyes glaring with fury, his great hand opening 
and shutting in air, as though it gasped for something to seize, 
turned himself about from side to side — now here, now there, 
bellowing like a wounded bull. His coarse shirt, rent from 
shoulder to flank, exposed the play of his huge muscles. He 
was bleeding from a cut on his forehead, and the blood, trickling 
down his face, mingled with the foam on his lips, and dropped 
sluggishly on his hairy breast. Each time that an assailant 
came within reach of the swinging cutlass, the ruffian's form 
dilated with a fresh access of passion. At one moment bunched 
with clinging adversaries — his arms, legs, and shoulders a hang- 
ing mass of human bodies — at the next, free, desperate, alone in 
the midst of his foes, his hideous countenance contorted with 
hate and rage, the giant seemed less a man than a demon, or 
one of those monstrous and savage apes which haunt the soli- 
tudes of the African forests. Spurning the mob who had rushed 
in at him, he strode towards his risen adversary, and aimed at 
him one final blow that should put an end to his tyranny for 
ever. A notion that Sarah Purfoy had betrayed him, and that 
the handsome soldier was the cause of the betrayal, had taken 
possession of his mind, and his rage had concentrated itself 
upon Maurice Frere. The aspect of the villain was so appalling, 
that, despite his natural courage, Frere, seeing the backward 
sweep of the cutlass, absolutely closed his eyes with terror, and 
surrendered himself to his fate. 

As Gabbett balanced himself for the blow, the ship, which 
had been rocking gently on a dull and silent sea, suddenly 
lurched — the convict lost his balance, swayed, and fell. Ere he 
could rise he was pinioned by twenty hands. 

Authority was almost instantaneously triumphant on the upper 
and lower decks. The mutiny was over. 



78 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

CHAPTER XI. 

DISCOVERIES AND CONFESSIONS. 

THE shock was felt all through the vessel, and Pine, who 
had been watching the ironing of the last of the mutineers, 
at once divined its cause. 

" Thank God ! " he cried, " there's a breeze at last ! '' and as " 
the overpowered Gabbett, bruised, bleeding, and bound, was 
dragged down the hatchway, the triumphant doctor hurried 
upon deck to find the Malabar plunging through the whitening 
water under the influence of a fifteen-knot breeze. 

" Stand by to reef topsails ! Away aloft men and furl the 
royals ! " cries Best from the quarter-deck ; and in the midst of 
the cheery confusion Maurice Frere briefly recapitulated what 
had taken place, taking care, however, to pass over his own de- 
reliction of duty as rapidly as possible. 

Pine knit his brows. " Do you think that she was in the 
plot?" he asked. 

" Not she ! " says Frere — eager to avert inquiry. " How 
should she be ? Plot ! She's sickening of fever, or I'm much 
mistaken." 

Sure enough, on opening the door of the cabin, they found 
Sarah Purfoy lying where she had fallen a quarter of an hour 
before. The clashing of cutlasses and the firing of muskets had 
not roused her. 

" We must make a sick-bay somewhere," says Pine, looking 
at the senseless figure with no kindly glance ; " though I don't 
think she's likely to be very bad. Confound her ! I believe that 
she's the cause of all this. I'll find out, too, before many hours 
are over ; for I've told those fellows that unless they confess all 
about it before to-morrow morning, I'll get them six dozen a- 
piece the day after we anchor in Hobart Town. I've a great mind 
to do it before we get there. Take her head, Frere, and we'll get 
her out of this before Vickers comes up. What a fool you are, 
to be sure ! I knew what it would be with women aboard ship. 
I wonder Mrs. V. hasn't been out before now. There — steady 
past the door. Why, man, one would think you never had your 
arm round a girl's waist before ! Pooh ! don't look so scared — 
I won't tell. Make haste> now* before that little parson come?! 



DISCOVERIES AND CONFESSIONS. 79 

Parsons are regular old women to chatter ; " and thus mutter- 
ing Pine assisted to carry Mrs. Vickers's maid into her cabin. 

" By George, but she's a fine girl ! " he said, viewing the in- 
animate body with the professional eye of a surgeon. " I don't 
wonder at you making a fool of yourself. Chances are, you've 
caught the fever, though this breeze will help to blow it out of 
us, please God. That old jackass, Blunt, too ! — he ought to be 
ashamed of himself, at his age ! " 

" What do you mean ? " asked Frere, hastily, as he heard a 
step approach. " What has Blunt to say about her ? " 

" Oh, I don't know," returned Pine. " He was smitten too, 
that's all. Like a good many more, in fact." 

" A good many more !" repeated the other, with a pretence of 
carelessness. 

" Yes ! " laughed Pine. " Why, man, she was making eyes 
at every man in the ship ! I caught her kissing a soldier 
once." 

Maurice Frere's cheeks grew hot. The experienced profligate 
had been taken in, deceived, perhaps laughed at. All the time 
he had nattered himself that he was fascinating the black-eyed 
maid, the black-eyed maid had been twisting him round her 
finger, and perhaps imitating his love-making for the gratifica- 
tion of her soldier-lover. It was not a pleasant thought ; and 
yet, strange to say, the idea of Sarah's treachery did not make 
him dislike her. There is a sort of love — if love it can be called 
—which thrives under ill-treatment. Nevertheless, he cursed 
with some appearance of disgust. 

Vickers met them at the door. " Pine, Blunt has the fever. 
Mr. Best found him in his cabin groaning. Come, and look at 
him." 

The commander of the Malabar was lying on his bunk in the 
betwisted condition into which men who sleep in their clothes 
contrive to get themselves. The doctor shook him, bent down 
over him, and then loosened his collar. " He's not sick," he 
said ; " he's drunk ! Blunt ! wake up ! Blunt !" 
But the mass refused to move. 

"Hallo !" says Pine, smelling at the broken tumbler, "what's 
this ? Smells queer. Rum ? No. Eh ! Laudanum 1 By 
George, he's been hocussed ! " 
" Nonsense !" 
" I see it," slapping his thigh. " It's that infernal woman I 



8o HIS NA TURAL LIFE. 

She's drugged him, and meant to do the same for — " (Frere 
gave him an imploring look) — "for anybody else who would be 
fool enough to let her do it. Dawes was right, sir. She's in it ; 
I'll swear she's in it." 

" What ! my wife's maid ? Nonsense ! " said Vickers. 

" Nonsense ! " echoed Frere. 

" It's no nonsense. That soldier who was shot — what's his 
name ? — Miles, he — but, however, it doesn't matter. It's all 
over now." 

" The men will confess before morning," says Vickers, " and 
we'll see." And he went off to his wife's cabin. 

His wife opened the door for him. She had been sitting by 
the child's bedside, listening to the firing, and waiting for her 
husband's return without a murmur. Flirt, fribble, and shrew 
as she was, Julia Vickers had displayed, in times of emergency, 
that glowing courage which women of her nature at times 
possess. Though she would yawn over any book above the 
level of a genteel love story ; attempt to fascinate, with ludi- 
crous assumption of girlishness, boys young enough to be her 
sons ; shudder at a frog, and scream" at a spider, she could sit 
throughout a quarter of an hour of such suspense as she had 
just undergone with as much courage as if she had been the 
strongest-minded woman that ever denied her sex. " Is it all 
over ? " she asked. 

" Yes, thank God ! " said Vickers, pausing on the threshold. 
"All is safe now, though we had a narrow escape, I believe. 
How's Sylvia?" 

The child was lying on the bed with her fair hair scattered 
over the pillow, and her tiny hands moving restlessly to and 
fro. 

" A little better, I think, though she has been talking a good 
deal." 

The red lips parted, and the blue eyes, brighter than ever, 
stared vacantly around. The sound of her father's voice seemed 
to have roused her, for she began to speak a little prayer : 
" God bless papa and mamma, and God bless all on board this 
ship. God bless me, and make me good girl, for Jesus Christ's 
sake, our Lord. Amen." 

The sound of the unconscious child's simple prayer had some- 
thing awesome in it, and John Vickers, who, not ten minutes 
before, would have sealed his own death warrant unhesitatingly 



A NEWSPAPER PARAGRAPH. 



to preserve the safety of the vessel, felt his eyes fill with un- 
wonted tears. The contrast was curious. From out the midst 
of that desolate ocean — in a fever-smitten prison ship, leagues 
from land, surrounded by ruffians, thieves, and murderers — the 
baby voice of an innocent child called confidently on Heaven 



Two hours afterwards — as the Malabar, escaped from the 
peril which had menaced her, plunged cheerily through the 
rippling water — the mutineers, by their spokesman, Mr. James 
Vetch, confessed. 

" They were very sorry, and hoped that their breach of dis- 
cipline would be forgiven. It was the fear of the typhus which 
had driven them to it. They had no accomplices either in the 
prison or out of it, but they felt it but right to say that the man 
who had planned the mutiny was Rufus Dawes." 

The malignant cripple had guessed from whom the information 
which had led to the failure of the plot had been derived, and 
this was his characteristic revenge. 



CHAPTER XII. 

A NF.WSPAPER PARAGRAPH. 



Extracted from the Hobart Town Courier of the 12th 
November, 1827 : — 

" The examination of the prisoners who were concerned in the attempt 
upon the Malabar was concluded on Tuesday last. Tiie four ringleaders, 
Dawes, Gabbett, Vetch, and Sanders, were condemned to death ; but we 
understand that, by the clemency of his Excellency the Governor, their 
sentence has been commuted to six years at the penal settlement of Mac- 
quarie Harbour," 



End of Book I. 



BOOK II. 



CHAPTER I. 



THE TOPOGRAPHY OF VAN DIEMEN'S LAND. 

THE south-east coast of Van Diemen's Land, from the 
solitary Mewstone to the basaltic cliffs of Tasman's 
Head, from Tasman's Head to Cape Pillar, and from 
Cape Pillar to the rugged grandeur of Pirates' Bay, resembles 
a biscuit at which rats have been nibbling. Eaten away by 
the continual action of the ocean which, pouring round by 
east and west, has divided the peninsula from the mainland 
of the Australasian continent — and done for Van Diemen's 
Land what it has done for- the Isle of Wight — the shore line 
is broken and ragged. 

Viewed upon the map, the fantastic fragments of island and 
promontory which lie scattered between the South-West Cape 
and the greater Swan Port, are like the curious forms assumed 
by melted lead spilt into water. If the supposition were not 
too extravagant, one might imagine that when the Australian 
continent was fused, a careless giant upset the crucible, and 
spilt Van Diemen's land in the ocean. The coast navigation 
is as dangerous as that of the Mediterranean. Passing from 
Cape Bougainville to the east of Maria Island, and between the 
numerous rocks and shoals which lie beneath the triple height 
of the Three Thumbs, the mariner is suddenly checked by 
Tasman's Peninsula, hanging, like a huge double-dropped ear- 
ring, from the mainland. Getting round under the Pillar rock, 



THE TOPOGRAPHY OF VAN DIEMEN'S LAND. 83 

through Storm Bay to Storing Island, we sight the Italy of 
this miniature Adriatic. Between Hobart Town and Sorrell, 
Pittwater and the Derwent, a strangely-shaped point of land — 
the Italian boot with its toe bent upwards — projects into the 
bay, and, separated from this projection by a narrow channel, 
dotted with rocks, the long length of Bruny Island makes, 
between its western side and the cliffs of Mount Royal, the 
dangerous passage known as D'Entrecasteaux Channel. At 
the southern entrance of D'Entrecasteaux Channel, a line of 
sunken rocks, known by the generic name of the Actaoon reef, 
attests that Bruny Head was once joined with the shores of 
Recherche Bay ; while, from the South Cape to the jaws of 
Macquarie Harbour, the white water caused by sunken reefs, 
or the jagged peaks of single rocks abruptly rising in mid sea, 
warn the mariner off shore. 

It would seem as though nature, jealous of the beauties of her 
silver Derwent, had made the approach to it as dangerous as 
possible ; but once through the archipelago of D'Entrecasteaux 
Channel, or the less dangerous eastern passage of Storm Bay, 
the voyage up the river is delightful. From the sentinel soli- 
tude of the Iron Pot to the smiling banks of New Norfolk, the 
river winds in a succession of reaches, narrowing to a deep chan- 
nel cleft between rugged and towering cliffs. A line drawn due 
north from the source of the Derwent would strike another river 
winding out from the northern part of the island, as the Derwent 
winds out from the south. The force of the waves, expended, 
perhaps, in destroying the isthmus, which, two thousand years 
ago, probably connected Van Diemen's Land with the continent 
has been here less violent. The rounding currents of the 
Southern Ocean, meeting at the mouth of the Tamar, have 
rushed upwards over the isthmus they have devoured, and 
pouring against the south coast of Victoria, have excavated 
there that inland sea called Port Philip Bay. If the waves 
have gnawed the south coast of Van Diemen's Land, they have 
bitten a mouthful out of the south coast of Victoria. The Lay 
is a millpool, having an area of nine hundred square miles, 
with a race between the heads two miles across. 

About a hundred and seventy miles to the south of this mill- 
race lies Van Diemen's Land, fertile, fair, and rich, rained upon 
by the genial showers from the clouds which, attracted by the 
Frenchman's Cap, Wyld's Crag, or the lofty peaks of the Wei- 



84 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

lington and Dromedary range, pour down upon the sheltered 
valleys their fertilizing streams. No parching hot wind — the 
scavenger, if the torment, of the continent — blows upon her crops 
and corn. The cool south breeze ripples gently the blue waters 
of the Derwent, and fans the curtains of the open windows of 
the city which nestles in the broad shadow of Mount Welling- 
ton. The hot wind, born amid the burning sand of the interior 
of the vast Australian continent, sweeps over the scorched and 
cracking plains, to lick up their streams and wither the herbage 
in its path, until it meets the waters of the great south bay ; but 
in its passage across the straits it is reft of its fire, and sinks, 
exhausted with its journey, at the feet of the terraced slopes of 
Launceston. 

The climate of Van Diemen's Land is one of the loveliest in 
the world. Launceston is warm, sheltered, and moist ; and 
Hobart Town, protected by Bruny Island and its archipelago 
of D'Entrecasteaux Channel and Storm Bay from the violence 
of the southern breakers, preserves the mean temperature of 
Smyrna ; whilst the district between these two towns spreads in 
a succession of beautiful valleys, through which glide clear and 
sparkling streams. But on the western coast, from the steeple- 
rocks of Cape Grim to the scrub-encircled barrenness of Sandy 
Cape, and the frowning entrance to Macquarie Harbour, the 
nature of the country entirely changes. Along that iron-bound 
shore, from Pyramid Island and the forest-backed solitude of 
Rocky Point, to the great Ram Head, and the straggling har- 
bour of Port Davey, all is bleak and cheerless. Upon that 
dreary beach the rollers of the southern sea complete their 
circuit of the globe, and the storm that has devastated the Cape, 
and united in its eastern course with the icy blasts which sweep 
northward from the unknown terrors of the southern pole, 
crashes unchecked upon the Huon pine forests, and lashes with 
rain the grim front of Mount Direction. Furious gales and 
sudden tempests affright the natives of the coast. Navigation 
is dangerous, and the entrance to the " Hell's Gates " of Mac- 
quarie Harbour — at the time of which we are writing (1833), in 
the height of its ill-fame as a convict settlement — is only to be 
attempted in calm weather. The sea-line is marked with wrecks. 
The sunken rocks are dismally named after the vessels they 
have destroyed. The air is chill and moist, the soil prolific 
only in prickly undergrowth and noxious weeds, while fcetid 



THE SOLITARY OF "HELL'S GATES." 85 

exhalations from swamp and fen cling close to the humid, 
spongy ground. All around breathes desolation ; on the face of 
nature is stamped a perpetual frown. The shipwrecked sailor, 
crawling painfully to the summit of basalt cliffs, or the ironed 
convict, dragging his tree trunk to the edge of some beetling 
plateau, looks down upon a sea of fog, through which rise 
mountain-tops like islands ; or sees through the biting sleet a 
desert of scrub and crag rolling to the feet of Mount Heems- 
kirk and Mount Zeehan — crouched like two sentinel lions 
keeping watch over the seaboard. 



CHAPTER II. 

THE SOLITARY OF " HELL'S GATES." 

« TT ELL'S GATES," formed by a rocky point, which runs 
[ abruptly northward, almost touches, on its eastern side, 
a projecting arm of land which guards the entrance to 
King's River. In the middle of the gates is a natural bolt— that 
is to say, an island — which, lying on a sandy bar in the very 
jaws of the current, creates a double whirlpool, impossible to 
pass in the smoothest weather. Once through the gates, the con- 
vict, chained on the deck of the inward-bound vessel, sees in 
front of him the bald cone of the Frenchman's Cap, piercing the 
moist air at a height of five thousand feet ; while, gloomed by 
overhanging rocks, and shadowed by gigantic forests, the black 
sides of the basin narrow to the mouth of the Gordon. The 
turbulent stream is the colour of indigo, and, being fed by 
numerous rivulets, which ooze through masses of decaying 
vegetable matter, is of so poisonous a nature that it is not only 
undrinkable, but absolutely kills the fish, which in stormy 
weather are driven in from the sea. As may be imagined, the 
furious tempests which beat upon this exposed coast create a 
strong surf-line. After a few days of north-west wind, the 
waters of the Gordon will be found salt for twelve miles up from 
the bar. The head-quarters of the settlement were placed on 
an island not far from the mouth of this inhospitable river, called 
Sarah Island. 

Though now the whole place is desolate, and a few rotting 



86 HIS NATURAI LIFE. 

posts and logs alone remain — mute witnesses of scenes of agony 
never to be revived — in the year 1833 the buildings were 
numerous and extensive. On Philip's Island, on the north side 
of the harbour, was a small farm, where vegetables were grown 
for the use of the officers of the establishment ; and, on Sarah 
Island, were sawpits, forges, dockyards, gaol, guard-house, 
barracks, and jetty. The military force numbered about sixty 
men, who, with convict-warders and constables, took charge of 
more than three hundred and fifty prisoners. These miserable 
wretches, deprived of every hope, were employed in the most 
degrading labour. No beast of burden was allowed on the 
settlement ; all the pulling and dragging was done by human 
beings. About one hundred " good-conduct " men were allowed 
the lighter toil of dragging timber to the wharf, to assist in 
shipbuilding ; the others cut down the trees that fringed the 
mainland, and carried them on their shoulders to the water's 
edge. The denseness of the scrub and bush rendered it neces- 
sary for a " roadway," perhaps a quarter of a mile in length, to 
be first constructed ; and the trunks of trees, stripped of their 
branches, were rolled together in this roadway, until a " slide " 
was made, down which the heavier logs could be shunted to- 
wards the harbour. The timber thus obtained was made into 
rafts, and floated to the sheds, or arranged for transportation to 
Hobart Town. The convicts were lodged on Sarah Island, in 
barracks flanked by a two-storied prison, whose "cells" were 
the terror of the most hardened. Each morning they received 
their breakfast of porridge, water, and salt, and then rowed, 
under the protection of their guard, to the wood-cutting stations, 
where they worked without food, until night. The launching 
and hewing of the timber compelled them to work up to their 
waists in water. Many of them were heavily ironed. Those 
who died were buried on a little plot of ground, called Halli- 
day's Island (from the name of the first man buried there), and 
a plank stuck into the earth, and carved with the initials of the 
deceased, was the only monument vouchsafed him. 

Sarah Island, situated at the south-east corner of the har- 
bour, is long and low. The commandant's house was built in the 
centre, having the chaplain's house and barracks between it and 
the gaol. The hospital was on the west shore, and in a line 
with it lay the two penitentiaries. Lines of lofty palisades ran 
round the settlement, giving it the appearance of a fortified 



THE SOLITARY OF "HELL'S GATES." 87 

town. These palisades were built for the purpose of warding off 
the terrific blasts of wind, which, shrieking through the long 
and narrow bay as through the keyhole of a door, had in former 
times tore off roofs and levelled boat-sheds. The little tov/n 
was set, as it were, in defiance of Nature, at the very extreme 
of civilization, and its inhabitants maintained perpetual warfare 
with the winds and waves. 

But the gaol of Sarah Island was not the only prison in this 
desolate region. 

At a little distance from the mainland is a rock, over the 
rude side of which the waves dash in rough weather. On the 
evening of the 3rd December, 1833, as the sun was sinking 
behind the tree-tops on the left side of the harbour, the figure 
of a man appeared on the top of this rock. He was clad in the 
coarse garb of a convict, and wore round his ankles two iron 
rings, connected by a short and heavy chain. To the middle 
of this chain a leathern strap was attached, which, splitting in 
the form of a T, buckled round his waist, and pulled the chain 
high enough to prevent him from stumbling over it as he walked. 
His head was bare, and his coarse, blue-striped shirt, open 
at the throat, displayed an embrowned and muscular neck. 
Emerging from out a sort of cell, or den, contrived by nature or 
art in the side of the cliff, he threw on a scanty fire, which 
burned between two hollowed rocks, a small log of pine wood, 
and then returning to his cave, and bringing from it an iron pot, 
which contained water, he scooped with his toil-hardened hands 
a resting-place for it in the ashes, and placed it on the embers. 
It was evident that the cave was at once his storehouse and 
larder, and that the two hollowed rocks formed his kitchen. 

Having thus made preparations for supper, he ascended a 
pathway which led to the highest point of the rock. His fetters 
compelled him to take short steps, and, as he walked, he winced 
as though the iron bit him. A handkerchief or strip of cloth was 
twisted round his left ankle, on which the circlet had chafed a 
sore. Painfully and slowly, he gained his destination, and 
flinging himself on the ground, gazed around him. The after- 
noon had been stormy,'and the rays of the setting sun shone redly 
on the turbid and rushing waters of the bay. On the right lay 
Sarah Island ; on the left the bleak shore of the opposite coast, 
and the tall peak of the Frenchman's Cap ; while the recent 
storm hung sullenly over the barren hills to the eastward. 



HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



Below him appeared the only sign of life. A brig was being 
towed up the harbour by two convict-manned boats. 

The sight of this brig seemed to rouse in the mind of the 
solitary of the rock a strain of reflection, for, sinking his chin 
upon his hand, he fixed his eyes on the incoming vessel, and 
immersed himself in moody thought. More than an hour had 
passed, yet he did not move. The ship anchored, the boats 
detached themselves from her sides, the sun sank, and the bay 
was plunged in gloom. Lights began to twinkle along the shore 
of the settlement. The little fire died, and the water in the iron 
pot grew cold ; yet the watcher on the rock did not stir. With 
his eyes staring into the gloom, and fixed steadily on the vessel, 
he lay along the barren cliff of his lonely prison as motionless 
as the rock on which he had stretched himself. 

This solitary man was Rufus Dawes. 



CHAPTER III. 

A SOCIAL EVENING. 



IN the house of Major Vickers, Commandant of Macquarie 
Harbour, there was, on this evening of December 3rd, 
unusual gaiety. 
Lieutenant Maurice Frere, late in command at Maria Island, 
had unexpectedly come down with news from head -quarters. 
The Ladybird, Government schooner, visited the settlement on 
ordinary occasions twice a year, and such visits were looked 
forward to with no little eagerness by the settlers. To the 
convicts the arrival of the Ladybird meant arrival of new faces, 
intelligence of old comrades, news of how the world, from which 
they were exiled, was progressing. When the Ladybird arrived, 
the chained and toil-worn felons felt that they were yet human, 
that the universe was not bounded by the gloomy forests which 
surrounded their prison, but that there was a world beyond, 
where men, like themselves, smoked, and drank, and laughed, 
and rested, and were Free. When the Ladybird arrived, they 
heard such news as interested them — that is to say, not mere 
foolish accounts of wars or ship arrivals, or city gossip, but 
matters appertaining to their own world — how Tom was with 



A SOCIAL EVENING. 89 

the road gangs, Dick on a ticket-of-leave, Harry taken to the 
bush, and Jack hung at the Hobart Town Gaol. Such items 
of intelligence were the only news they cared to hear, and the 
new-comers were well posted up in such matters. To the 
convicts the Ladybird was town talk, theatre, stock quotations, 
and latest telegrams. She was their newspaper and post-office, 
the one excitement of their dreary existence, the one link between 
their own misery and the happiness of their fellow-creatures. To 
the Commandant and the " free men " this messenger from the 
outer life was scarcely less welcome. There was not a man on 
the island who did not feel his heart grow heavier when her 
white sails disappeared behind the shoulder of the hill. 

On the present occasion business of more than ordinary 
importance had procured for' Major Vickers this pleasurable 
excitement. It had been resolved by Governor Arthur that the 
convict establishment should be broken up. A succession of 
murders and attempted escapes had called public attention to 
the place, and its distance from Hobart Town rendered it 
inconvenient and expensive. Arthur had fixed upon Tasman's 
Peninsula — the earring of which we have spoken — as a future 
convict depot, and naming it Port Arthur, in honour of himself, 
had sent down Lieutenant Maurice Frere with instructions 
for Vickers to convey the prisoners of Macquarie Harbour 
thither. 

In order to understand the magnitude and meaning of such 
an order as that with which Lieutenant Frere was entrusted, we 
must glance at the social condition of the penal colony at this 
period of its history. 

Nine years before, Colonel Arthur, late Governor of Honduras, 
had arrived at a most critical moment. The former Governor, 
Colonel Sorrell, was a. man of genial temperament, but little 
strength of character. He was, moreover, profligate in his 
private life ; and, encouraged by his example, his officers vio- 
lated all rules of social decency. It was common for an officer 
to openly keep a female convict as his mistress. Not only 
would compliance purchase comforts, but strange stories were 
afloat concerning the persecution of women who dared to choose 
their own lovers. To put down this profligacy was the first care 
of Arthur ; and in enforcing a severe attention to etiquette and 
outward respectability, he perhaps erred on the side of virtue. 
Honest, brave, and high-minded, he was also penurious and 



9o HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

cold, and the ostentatious good humour of the colonists dashed 
itself in vain against his polite indifference. In opposition to 
this official society created by Governor Arthur was that of the 
free settlers and the ticket-of-leave men. The latter were more 
numerous than one would be apt to suppose. On the 2nd 
November, 1829, thirty-eight free pardons and fifty-six con- 
ditional pardons appeared on the books; and the number of 
persons holding tickets-of-leave, on the 26th of September the 
same year, was seven hundred and forty-five. 

Of the social condition of these people at this time it is 
impossible to speak without astonishment. According to the 
recorded testimony of many respectable persons — Government 
officials, military officers, and free settlers — the profligacy of the 
settlers was notorious. Drunkenness was a prevailing vice. 
Even children were to be seen in the streets intoxicated. On 
Sundays, men and women might be observed standing round 
the public-house doors, waiting for the expiration of the hours 
of public worship, in order to continue their carousing. As 
for the condition of the prisoner population, that, indeed, is 
indescribable. Notwithstanding the severe punishment for sly 
grog-selling, it was carried on to a large extent. Men and 
women were found intoxicated together, and a bottle of brandy 
was considered to be cheaply bought at the price of twenty 
lashes. In the factory — a prison for females— the vilest abuses 
were committed, while the infamies current, as matters of course, 
in chain gangs and penal settlements, were of too horrible a 
nature to be more than hinted at here. All that the vilest and 
most bestial of human creatures could invent and practise, was 
in this unhappy country invented and practised without restraint 
and without shame. 

Seven classes of criminals were established in 1826, when the 
new barracks for prisoners at Hobart Town were finished. The 
first class were allowed to sleep out of barracks, and to work 
for themselves on Saturday ; the second had only the last- 
named indulgence ; the third were only allowed Saturday after- 
noon ; the fourth and fifth were " refractory and disorderly 
characters — to work in irons ; " the sixth were " men of the 
most degraded and incorrigible character — to be worked in irons, 
and kept entirely separate from the other prisoners ; " while the 
seventh were the refuse of this refuse— the murderers, bandits, 
and villains, whom nei'.her chain nor lash could tame. They 



A SOCIAL EVENING. 91 

were regarded as socially dead, and shipped to Hell's Gates, or 
Maria Island. Hell's Gates was the most dreaded of all these 
houses of bondage. The discipline at the place was so severe, 
and the life so terrible, that prisoners would risk all to escape 
from it. In one year, of eighty-five deaths there, only thirty 
were from natural causes ; of the remaining dead, twenty-seven 
were drowned, eight killed accidentally, three shot by the 
soldiers, and twelve murdered by their comrades. In 1822, one 
hundred and sixty-nine men out of one hundred and eighty-two 
were punished to the extent of two thousand lashes. During 
the ten years of its existence, one hundred and twelve men 
escaped, out of whom sixty-two only were found — dead. The 
prisoners killed themselves to avoid living any longer, and if 
so fortunate as to penetrate the desert of scrub, heath, and 
swamp, which lay between their prison and the settled dis- 
tricts, preferred death to recapture. Successfully to transport 
the remnant of this desperate band of doubly-convicted felons 
to Arthur's new prison, was the mission of Maurice Frere. 

He was sitting by the empty fire-place, with one leg carelessly 
thrown over the other, entertaining the company with his usual 
indifferent air. The six years that had passed since his de- 
parture from England had given him a sturdier frame and a 
fuller face. His hair was coarser, his face redder, and his eye 
more hard, but in demeanour he was little changed. Sobered 
he might be, and his voice had acquired that decisive, insured 
tone which a voice exercised only in accents of command 
invariably acquires, but his bad qualities were as prominent as 
ever. His five years' residence at Maria Island had increased 
that brutality of thought, and overbearing confidence in his own 
importance, for which he had been always remarkable, but it 
had also given him an assured air of authority, which covered 
the more unpleasant features of his character. He was detested 
by the prisoners — as he said, " it was a word and a blow with 
him " — but, among his superiors, he passed for an officer, honest 
and painstaking, though somewhat bluff and severe. 

"Well, Mrs. Vickers," he said, as he took a cup of tea from 
the hands of that lady, " I suppose you won't be sorry to get 
away from this place, eh? Trouble you for the toast, Vickers!'' 

" No indeed," says poor Mrs. Vickers, with the old girlish- 
ness shadowed by six years ; " I shall be only too glad. A 
dreadful place 1 John's duties, however, are imperative. But 



92 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

the wind ! My dear Mr. Frere, you've no idea of it ; I wanted 
to send Sylvia to Hobart Town, but John would not let her 
go." 

"By the way, how is Miss Sylvia ?" asked Frere, with the 
patronising air which men of his stamp adopt when they speak 
of children. 

" Not very well, I'm sorry to say," returned Vickers. " You 
see, it's lonely for her here. There are no children of her own 
age, with the exception of the pilot's little girl, and she cannot 
associate with her. But I did not like to leave her behind, and 
endeavoured to teach her myself." 

" Hum ! There was a — ha — governess, or something, was 
there not ? " said Frere, staring into his tea-cup. " That maid, 
you know — what was her name ? " 

" Miss Purfoy," said Mrs. Vickers, a little gravely. " Yes, 
poor thing ! A sad story, Mr. Frere." 

Frere's eye twinkled. 

" Indeed ! I left, you know, shortly after the trial of the 
mutineers, and never heard the full particulars." He spoke 
carelessly, but he awaited the reply with keen curiosity. 

" A sad story ! " repeated Mrs. Vickers. " She was the wife 
of that wretched man, Rex, and came out as my maid in order 
to be near him. She would never tell me her history, poor 
thing, though all through the dreadful accusations made by that 
horrid doctor — I always disliked that man — I begged her almost 
on my knees. You know how she nursed Sylvia and poor John. 
Really a most superior creature. I think she must have been a 
governess." 

Mr. Frere raised his eyebrows abruptly, as though he would 
say, Governess / Of coarse. Happy suggestion. Wonder it never 
occurred to me before. " However, her conduct was most ex- 
emplary — really most exemplary — and during the six months we 
were in Hobart Town she taught little Sylvia a great deal. Of 
course she could not help her wretched husband, you know. 
Could she ? " 

" Certainly not ! " said Frere heartily. " I heard something 
about him too. Got into some scrape, did he not ? Half a cup, 
please." 

" Miss Purfoy, or Mrs. Rex, as she really was, though I don't 
suppose Rex is her real name either — sugar and milk, I think 
you said— came into a little legacy from an old aunt in England." 



A SOCIAL EVENING. 93 

Mr. Frere gave a little bluff nod, meaning thereby, Old aunt f 
Exactly. Just what might have been expected. " And left my 
service. She took a little cottage on the New Town road, and 
Rex was assigned to her as her servant." 

"I see. The old dodge!" says Frere, flushing a little. 
"Well?" 

" Well, the wretched man tried to escape, and she helped 
him. He was to get to Launceston, and so on board a vessel to 
Sydney ; but they took the unhappy creature, and he was sent 
down here. She was only fined, but it ruined her." 

"Ruined her?" 

" Well, you see, only a few people knew of her relationship to 
Rex, and she was rather respected. Of course, when it became 
known, what with that dreadful trial and the horrible assertions 
of Dr. Pine — you will not believe me, I know, there was some- 
thing about that man I never liked — she was quite left alone. 
She wanted me to bring her down here to teach Sylvia ; but 
John thought that it was only to be near her husband, and 
wouldn't allow it." 

" Of course it was," said Vickers, rising. " Frere, if you'd 
like to smoke, we'll go on the verandah. — She will never be 
satisfied until she gets that scoundrel free." 

" He's a bad lot, then ?" says Frere, opening the glass window, 
and leading the way to the sandy garden. " You will excuse 
my roughness, Mrs. Vickers, but I have become quite a slave 
to my pipe. Ha, ha, it's wife and child to me!" 

"Oh, a very bad lot," returned Vickers; "quiet and silent, 
but ready for any villainy. I count him one of the worst men 
we have. With the exception of one or two more, I think he is 
the worst." 

"Why don't you flog 'em?" says Frere, lighting his pipe in 
the gloom. " By George, sir, I cut the hides off my fellows if 
they show any nonsense!" 

" Well," says Vickers, " I don't care about too much cat 
myself. Barton, who was here before me, flogged tremendously, 
but I don't think it did any good. They tried to kill him several 
times. You remember those twelve fellows who were hung? 
No ! Ah, of course, you were away." 

"What do you do with 'em ?" 

"Oh, flog the worst, you know ; but I don't flog more than a 
man a week, as a rule, and never more than fifty lashes. They're 



94 HIS NATURAL LIFE 

getting quieter now. Then we iron, and dumb-cells, and maroon 
them." 

"Do what?" 

" Give them solitary confinement on Grummet Island. When 
a man gets very bad, we clap him into a boat with a week's pro- 
visions, and pull him over to Grummet. There are cells cut in 
the rock, you see, and the fellow pulls up his commissariat after 
him, and lives there by himself for a month or so. It tames 
them wonderfully.' 

" Does it? " said Frere. " By Jove ! it's a capital notion. I 
wish I had a place of that sort at Maria." 

" I've a fellow there now," says Vickers ; " Dawes. You 
remember him, of course — the ringleader of the mutiny in the 
Malabar. A dreadful ruffian. He was most violent the first 
year I was here. Barton used to flog a good deal, and Dawes 
had a childish dread of the cat. When I came, in — when was 
i t p — i n '29, he'd made a sort of petition to be sent back to the 
settlement. Said that he was innocent of the mutiny, and that 
the accusation against him was false." 

" The old dodge," said Frere again. " A match ? Thanks." 

" Of course, I couldn't let him go ; but I took him out of the 
chain-gang, and put him on the Osprey. You saw her in the 
dock as you came in. He worked for some time very well, and 
then tried to bolt again." 

"The old trick. Ha ! ha ! don't I know it?" says Mr. Frere, 
emitting a streak of smoke in the air, expressive of preternatural 
wisdom. 

" Well, we caught him, and gave him fifty. Then he was sent 
to the chain-gang, cutting timber. Then we put him into the 
boats, but he quarrelled with the coxswain, and then we took 
him back to the timber-rafts. About six weeks ago he made 
another attempt — together with Gabbett, the man who nearly 
killed you— but his leg was chafed with the irons, and we took 
him. Gabbett and three more, however, got away." 

" Haven't you found 'em ? " asked Frere, puffing at his pipe. 

" No. But they'll come to the same fate as the rest," said 
Vickers, with a sort of dismal pride. " No man ever escaped 
from Macquarie Harbour." 

Frere laughed. " By the Lord ! " said he, " it will be rather 
hard for 'em if they don't come back before the end of the 
month, eh ? " 



A SOCIAL EVENING. 95 

" Oh," said Vickers, " they're sure to come— if they can come 
at all ; but once lost in the scrub, a man hasn't much chance 
for his life." 

" When do you think you will be ready to move ? " asked 
Frere. 

" As soon as you wish. I don't want to stop a moment longer 
than I can help. It is a terrible life this." 

" Do you think so ?" asked his companion, in unaffected sur- 
prise. "/ like it. It's dull, certainly. When I first went to 
Maria I was dreadfully bored, but one soon gets used to it. 
There is a sort of satisfaction to me, by George, in keeping the 
scoundrels in order. I like to see the fellows' eyes glint at you 
as you walk past 'em. 'Gad, they'd tear me to pieces, if they 
dared, some of 'em ! " and he laughed grimly, as though the 
hate he inspired was a thing to be proud of. 

" How shall we go ? " asked Vickers. " Have you got any 
instructions?" 

" No," says Frere ; " it's all left to you. Get 'em up the best 
way you can, Arthur said, and pack 'em off to the new penin- 
sula. He thinks you too far off here, by George ! He wants to 
have you within hail." 

" It's a dangerous thing taking so many at once," suggested 
Vickers. 

" Not a bit. Batten 'em down and keep the sentries awake, 
and they won't do any harm." 

" But Mrs. Vickers and the child?" 

" I've thought of that. You take the Ladybird with the pri- 
soners, and leave me to bring up Mrs. Vickers in the Osprey" 

"We might do that. Indeed, it's the best way, I think. I 
don't like the notion of having Sylvia among those wretches, 
and yet 1 don't like to leave her." 

" Well," says Frere, confident of his own ability to accomplish 
anything he might undertake, " I 1 11 take the Ladybird, and you 
the Osprey. Bring up Mrs. Vickers yourself." 

" No, no," said Vickers, with a touch of his old pomposity, 

" that won't do. By the King's Regulations " 

" All right," interjected Frere, " you needn't quote 'em. ' TJie 
officer commanding is obliged to place himself in charge ' — all 
right, my dear sir. I've no objection in life." 

" It was Sylvia that I was thinking of," said Vickers. 

" Well, then," cries the other, as the door of the room inside 



96 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

opened, and a little white figure came through into the broad 
verandah. " Here she is ! Ask her yourself. Well, Miss 
Sylvia, will you come and shake hands with an old friend ?" 

The bright-haired baby of the Malabar had become a bright- 
haired child of some eleven years old, and as she stood in her 
simple white dress in the glow of the lamplight, even the unaes- 
thetic mind of Mr. Frere was struck by her extreme beauty. 
Her bright blue eyes were as bright and as blue as ever. Her 
little figure was as upright and as supple as a willow rod ; and 
her innocent, delicate face was framed in a nimbus of that fine 
golden hair — dry and electrical, each separate thread shining 
with a lustre of its own— with which the dreaming painters of the 
middle ages endowed and glorified their angels. 

" Come and give me a kiss, Miss Sylvia !" cries Frere. " You 
haven't forgotten me, have you ?" 

But the child, resting one hand on her father's knee, surveyed 
Mr. Frere from head to foot with the charming impertinence of 
childhood, and then, shaking her lovely hair, inquired — " Who 
is he, papa?" 

" Mr. Frere, darling. Don't you remember Mr. Frere, who 
used to play ball with you on board the ship, and who was so 
kind to you when you were getting well ? For shame, 
Sylvia !" 

There was in the chiding accents such an undertone of tender- 
ness, that the reproof fell harmless. 

" I remember you," said Sylvia, tossing her head ; " but you 
were nicer then than you are now. I don't like you at all." 

" You doiit remember me," said Frere, a little disconcerted, 
and affecting to be intensely at his ease. " I am sure you don't. 
What is my name V 

" Lieutenant Frere. You knocked down a prisoner who 
picked up my ball. I don't like you." 

"You're a forward young lady, upon my word !" says Frere, 
with a great laugh. " Ha ! ha ! so I did, begad, I recollect now. 
What a memory you've got !" 

"He's here now, isn't he, papa?" went on Sylvia, regardless 
of interruption. " Rufus Dawes is his name, and he's always in 
trouble. Poor fellow, I'm sorry for him. Danny says he's queer 
in his mind." 

"And who's Danny?" asked Frere, with another laugh. 

" The cook," replied Vickers. " An old man I took out of 



A SOCIAL EVENING 97 

hospital. Sylvia, you talk too much with the prisoners. I have 
forbidden you once or twice before." 

"But Danny is not a prisoner, papa — he's a cook," says 
Sylvia, nothing abashed, "and he's a clever man. He told me 
all about London, where the Lord Mayor rides in a glass coach, 
and all the work is done by free men. He says you never hear 
chains there. I should like to see London, papa !" 

" So would Mr. Danny, I have no doubt," said Frere. 

" No— he didn't say that. But he wants to see his old mother, 
he says. Fancy Danny's mother ! What an ugly old woman 
she must be ! He says he'll see her in heaven. Will he, 
papa?" 

" I hope so, my dear." 

"Papa!" 

"Yes." 

" Will Danny wear his yellow jacket in heaven, or go as a free 
man?" 

Frere burst into a roar at this. 

"You're an impertinent fellow, sir?" cried Sylvia, her bright 
eyes flashing. "How dare you laugh at me? If I was papa, 
I'd give you half an hour at the triangles. Oh, you impertinent 
man !" and, crimson with rage, the spoilt little beauty ran out 
of the room. 

Vickers looked grave, but Frere was constrained to get up to 
laugh at his case. 

" Good ! Ton honour, that's good ! The little vixen ! — Half 
an hour at the triangles ! Ha-ha ! ha, ha, ha !" 

" She is a strange child," said Vickers, " and talks strangely 
for her age ; but you mustn't mind her. She is neither girl nor 
woman, you see ; and her education has been neglected. More- 
over, this gloomy place and its associations — what can you 
expect from a child bred in a convict settlement?" 

" My dear sir," says the other, "she's delightful ! Her inno- 
cence of the world is amazing !" 

" She must have three or four years at a good finishing school 
at Sydney. Please God, I will give them to her when we go 
back — or send her to England if I can. She is a good-hearted 
girl, but she wants polishing sadly, I'm afraid." 

Just then some one came up the garden path and saluted. 

"What is it, Troke?" 

" Prisoner given himself up, sir." 



9S HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

"Which of them?" 

" Gabbett. He came back to-night." 

"Alone?" 

"Yes, sir. The rest have died — he says." 

"What's that?" asked Frere, suddenly interested. 

" The bolter I was telling you about — Gabbett, your old friend. 
He's returned." 

" How long has he been out ?" 

" Nigh six weeks, sir," said the constable, touching his cap. 

"Gad, he's had a narrow squeak for it, I'll be bound. I 
should like to see him." 

"He's down at the sheds," said the ready Troke — a "good 
conduct" burglar. "You can see him at once, gentlemen, if 
you like." 

" What do you say, Vickers ?" 

"Oh, by all means." 



CHAPTER IV. 

THE BOLTER. 



IT was not ar to the sheds, and after a few minutes' walk 
through the wooden palisades they reached a long stone 
building, two stories high, from which issued a horrible 
growling, pierced with shrilly screamed songs. At the sound 
of the musket butts clashing on the pine wood flagging, the 
noises ceased, and a silence more sinister than sound fell on 
the place. 

Passing between two rows of warders, the two officers reached 
a sort of ante-room to the gaol, containing a pine-log stretcher, 
on which a mass of something was lying. On a roughly-made 
stool, by the side of this stretcher, sat a man, in the grey dress 
(worn as a contrast to the yellow livery) of "good conduct" 
prisoners. This man held between his knees a basin containing 
gruel, and was apparently endeavouring to feed the mass on the 
pine logs. 

"Won't he eat, Steve?" asked Vickers. 

And at the sound of the Commandant's voice, Steve arose. 

" Dunno what's wrong wi' "un, sir," he said, jerking up a finger 



THE BOLTER. 99 



to his forehead. "He seems jest muggy-pated. I can't do 
nothin' wi' 'un." 

"Gabbett!" 

The intelligent Troke, considerately alive to the wishes of his 
superior officers, dragged the mass into a sitting posture, and 
woke it. 

Gabbett — for it was he — passed one great hand over his face, 
and leaning exactly in the position in which Troke placed him, 
scowled, bewildered, at his visitors. 

"Well, Gabbett," says Vickers, "you've come back again, 
you see. When will you learn sense, eh? Where are your 
mates?" 

The giant did not reply. 

" Do you hear me ? Where are your mates ?" 

" Where arc your mates ?" repeated Troke. 

" Dead," says Gabbett. 

"All three of them?" 

"Ay." 

"And how did you get back?" 

Gabbett, in eloquent silence, held out a bleeding foot. 

"We found him on the point, sir," said Troke, jauntily ex- 
plaining, " and brought him across in the boat. He had a basin 
of gruel, but he didn't seem hungry." 

"Are you hungry?" 

" Yes." 

" Why don't you eat your gruel ?" 

Gabbett curled his great lips. 

" I have eaten it. Ain't yer got nuffin better nor that to flog 
a man on ? Ugh ! yer a mean lot ! Wot's it to be this time, 
Major? Fifty?" 

And laughing, he rolled down again on the logs. 

"A nice specimen!" said Vickers, with a hopeless smile. 
"What can one do with such a fellow ?" 

" I'd flog his soul out of his body," said Frere, " if he spoke 
to me like that ! " 

Troke and the others, hearing the statement, conceived an 
instant respect for the new comer. He looked as if he would 
keep his word. 

The giant raised his great head and looked at the speaker, but 
did not recognize him. He saw only a strange face — a visitor 
perhaps. "You may flog, and welcome, master," said he, "if 



HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



you'll give me a fig o' tibbacky ." Frere laughed. The brutal 
indifference of the rejoinder suited his humour, and, with a 
glance at Vickers, he took a small piece of cavendish from the 
pocket of his pea-jacket, and gave to the recaptured convict. 
Gabbett snatched it as a cur snatches at a bone, and thrust it 
whole into his mouth. 

"How many mates had he?" asked Maurice, watching the 
champing jaws as one looks at a strange animal, and asking the 
question as though a "mate" was something a convict was born 
with — like a mole, for instance. 

" Three, sir." 

" Three, eh ? Well, give him thirty lashes, Vickers." 

" And if I ha' had three more," growled Gabbett, mumbling at 
his tobacco, " you wouldn't ha' had the chance." 

" What does he say ? " 

But Troke had not heard, and the "good-conduct" man, 
shrinking, as it seemed, slightly from the prisoner, said he had 
not heard either. The wretch himself, munching hard at his 
tobacco, relapsed into his restless silence, and was as though 
he had never spoken. 

As he sat there gloomily chewing, he was a spectacle to 
shudder at. Not so much on account of his natural hideous- 
ncss, increased a thousand-fold by the tattered and filthy rags 
which barely covered him. Not so much on account of his 
unshaven jaws, his hare-lip, his torn and bleeding feet, his 
haggard cheeks, and his huge, wasted frame. Not only because, 
looking at the animal, as he crouched, with one foot curled 
round the other, and one hairy arm pendant between his knees, 
he was so horribly unhuman, that one shuddered to think that 
tender women and fair children must, of necessity, confess to 
fellowship of kind with such a monster. But also because, in 
his slavering mouth, his slowly grinding jaws, his restless 
fingers, and his bloodshot, wandering eyes, there lurked a hint 
of some terror more awful than the terror of starvation— a 
memory of a tragedy played out in the gloomy depths of that 
forest which had vomited him forth again ; and the shadow of 
this unknown horror, clinging to him, 'repelled and disgusted, as 
though he bore about with him the reek of the shambles. 

" Come," said Vickers, "let us go back. I shall have to flog 
him again, I suppose. Oh, this place ! No wonder they call it 
'Hell's Gates.'" 



THE BOLTER. 



11 You are too soft-hearted, my dear sir," said Frere, half way 
up the palisaded path. " We must treat brutes like brutes." 

Major Vickers, inured as he was to such sentiments, sighed. 
u It is not for me to find fault with the system," he said, hesi- 
tating, in his reverence for " discipline," to utter all the thought; 
" but I have sometimes wondered if kindness would not succeed 
better than the chain and the cat." 

"Your old ideas!" laughed his companion. "Remember, 
they nearly cost us our lives on the Malabar. No, no. I've 
seen something of convicts — though, to be sure, my fellows were 
not so bad as yours — and there's only one way with 'em. Keep 
'em down, sir. Make 'em feel what they are. They're there to 
work, sir. If they won't work, flog 'em until they will. If they 
work well — why a taste of the cat now and then keeps 'em in 
mind of what they may expect if they get lazy." 

They had reached the verandah now. The rising moon shone 
softly on the bay beneath them, and touched with her white 
light the summit of the Grummet Rock. 

" That is the general opinion, I know," returned Vickers. 
" But consider the life they lead. Good God !" he added, with 
sudden vehemence, as Frere paused to look at the bay. " I'm 
not a cruel man, and never, I believe, inflicted an unmerited 
punishment, but since I have been here ten prisoners have 
drowned themselves from yonder rock, rather than live on in 
their misery. Only three weeks ago, two men, with a wood- 
cutting party in the hills, having had some words with the 
overseer, shook hands with the gang, and then, hand in hand, 
flung themselves over the cliff. It's horrible to think of!" 

" They shouldn't get sent here," said practical Frere. " They 
knew what they had to expect. Serve 'em right." 

" But imagine an innocent man condemned to this place !" 

" I can't," said Frere, with a laugh. " Innocent man, be 
hanged ! They're all innocent, if you'd believe their own stories. 
Hallo ! what's that red light there ? " 

" Dawes's fire, on Grummet Rock," says Vickers, going in ; 
w the man I told you about. Come in and have some brandy- 
and-watcr, and we'll shut the door on the place." 



io2 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



CHAPTER V. 
SYLVIA. 

WELL," said Frcre, as they went in, "you'll be out of it 
soon. You can get all ready to start by the end of 
the month, and I'll bring on Mrs. Vickcrs after- 
wards." 

" What is that you say about me ?" asked the sprightly Mrs. 
Vickers from within. " You wicked men, leaving me alone all 
this time ! " 

" Mr. Frere has kindly offered to bring you and Sylvia after 
us in the Osprey. I shall, of course, have to take the Lady- 
bird? 

" You are most kind, Mr. Frere, really you are," says Mrs. 
Vickers, a recollection of her flirtation with a certain young 
lieutenant, six years before, tinging her cheeks. " It is really 
most considerate of you. Won't it be nice, Sylvia, to go with 
Mr. Frere and mamma to Hobart Town?" 

" Mr. Frere," says Sylvia, coming from out a corner of the 
room, " I am very sorry for what I said just now. Will you 
forgive me ? " 

She asked the question in such a prim, old-fashioned way 
standing in front of him, with her golden locks streaming over 
her shoulders, and her hands clasped on her black silk apron 
(Julia Vickers had her own notions about dressing her daughter), 
that Frere was again inclined to laugh. 

" Of course I'll forgive you, my dear," he said. " You didn't 
mean it, I know." 

" Oh, but I did mean it, and that's why I'm sorry. I am a 
very naughty girl sometimes, though you wouldn't think so " 
(this with a charming consciousness of her own beauty), " es- 
pecially with Roman history. I don't think the Romans were 
half as brave as the Carthaginians ; do you, Mr. Frere ? " 

Maurice, somewhat staggered by this question, could only 
ask, " Why not ? " 

" Well, I don't like them half so well myself," says Sylvia, 
with feminine disdain of reasons. " They always had so many 
soldiers, though the others were so cruel when they conquered." 
" Were they ? " says Frere. 



SYLVIA. 103 

" Were they ! Goodness gracious, yes ! Didn't they cut 
poor Regulus's eyelids off, and roll him down hill in a barrel 
full of nails ? What do you call that, I should like to know ? " 
and Mr. Frere, shaking his red head with vast assumption of 
classical learning, could not but admit that that was not kind 
on the part of the Carthaginians. 

" You arc a great scholar, Miss Sylvia," he remarked, with a 
consciousness that this self-possessed girl was rapidly taking 
him out of his depth. " Are you fond of reading ? " 

" Very." 

" And what books do you read ? " 

" Oh, lots ! ' Paul and Virginia,' and ' Paradise Lost,' and 
' Shakspeare's Plays,' and ' Robinson Crusoe,' and ' Blair's Ser- 
mons,' and ' The Tasmanian Almanack,' and ' The Book of 
Beauty,' and ' Tom Jones.'" 

"A somewhat miscellaneous collection, I fear," said Mrs. 
Vickers, with a sickly smile — she, like Gallio, cared for none of 
these things, — " but our little library is necessarily limited, and 
1 am not a great reader. John, my dear, Mr. Frere would like 
another glass of brandy-and-water. Oh, don't apologize ; I am 
a soldier's wife, you know. Sylvia, my love, say good-night to 
Mr. Frere, and retire." 

" Good-night, Miss Sylvia. Will you give me a kiss ?" 

"No !" 

" Sylvia, don't be rude ! " 

" I'm not rude," cries Sylvia, indignant at the way in which 
her literary confidence had been received. " He's rude ! I 
won't kiss you. Kiss you indeed ! My goodness gracious !" 

" Won't you, you little beauty?" cried Frere, suddenly leaning 
forward, and putting his arm round the child. " Then I must 
Yiss you /" 

To his astonishment, Sylvia, finding herself thus seized and 
kissed despite herself, flushed scarlet, and, lifting up her tiny 
fist, struck him on the cheek with all her force. 

The blow was so sudden, and the momentary pain so sharp, 
that Maurice nearly slipped into his native coarseness, and 
rapped out an oath. 

"My dear, Sylvia ! " cried Vickers, in tones of grave re- 
proof. 

But Frere laughed, caught both the child's hands in one of 
his own, and kissed her again and again, despite her struggles. 



io 4 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



" There ! " he said, with a sort of triumph in his tone. " You 
got nothing by that, you see." 

Vickers rose, with annoyance visible on his face, to draw the 
child away ; and as he did so, she, gasping for breath, and 
sobbing with rage, wrenched her wrist free, and in a storm 
of childish passion, struck her tormentor again and again. 
" Man !" she cried, with flaming eyes, " Let me go ! I hate you ! 
I hate you ! I hate you !" 

" I am very sorry for this, Frere," said Vickers, when the door 
was closed again. " I hope she did not hurt you." 

" Not she ! I like her spirit. Ha, ha ! That's the way with 
women all the world over. Nothing like showing them that 
they've got a master." 

Vickers hastened to turn the conversation, and, amid recol- 
lections of old days, and speculations as to future prospects, the 
little incident was forgotten. But when, an hour later, Mr. Frere 
traversed the passage that led to his bedroom, he found himself 
confronted by a little figure wrapped in a shawl. It was his 
childish enemy. 

" I've waited for you, Mr. Frere," said she, " to beg pardon. 
I ought not to have struck you ; I am a wicked girl. Don't say 
no, because I am ; and if I don't grow better I shall never go to 
heaven." 

Thus addressing him, the child produced a piece of paper, 
folded like a letter, from beneath the shawl, and handed it to him. 

" What's this ? " he asked. " Go back to bed, my dear ; you'll 
catch cold." 

" It's a written apology ; and I sha'n't catch cold, because I've 
got my stockings on. If you don't accept it," she added, with 
an arching of the brows, " it is not my fault. I have struck you, 
but I apologize. Being a woman, I can't offer you satisfaction 
in the usual way." 

Mr. Frere stifled the impulse to laugh, and made his courteous 
adversary a low bow. 

" I accept your apology, Miss Sylvia," said he. 

" Then," returned Miss Sylvia, in a lofty manner, " there is 
nothing more to be said, and I have the honour to bid you good 
night, sir." 

The little maiden drew her shawl around her with immense 
dignity, and marched down the passage as calmly as though she 
had been Amadis of Gaul himself. 



A LEAP IN THE DARK. 105 

Frere, gaining his room choking with laughter, opened the 
folded paper by the light of the tallow candle, and read, in a 
quaint, childish hand — 

Sir, — I have struck you. I apologize in writing. 

Your humble servant to command, 

Sylvia Vickeks. 

" I wonder what book she took that out of?" he said. " 'Pon 
ray word she must be a little cracked. Gad, it's a queer life for 
a child in this place, and no mistake." 



CHAPTER VI. 

A LEAP IN THE DARK. 



TWO or three mornings after the arrival of the Ladybird, 
the solitary prisoner of the Grummet Rock noticed mys- 
terious movements along the shore of the island settlement. 
The prison boats, which had put off every morning at sunrise to 
Vhe foot of the timbered ranges on the other side of the harbour, 
had not appeared for some days. The building of a pier, or 
breakwater, running from the western point of the settlement, 
was discontinued ; and all hands appeared to be occupied with 
the newly-built Ospny, which was lying on the slips. Parties 
of soldiers also daily left the Ladybird, and assisted at the mys- 
terious work in progress. Rufus Dawes, walking his little round 
each day, in vain wondered what this unusual commotion por 
tended. Unfortunately, no one came to enlighten his igno- 
rance. 

A fortnight after this, about the 15th of December, he observed 
another curious fact. All the boats on the island put off one 
morning to the opposite side of the harbour, and in the course 
of the day a great smoke arose along the side of the hills. The 
next day the same was repeated ; and on the fourth day the 
boats returned, towing behind them a huge raft. This raft, 
made fast to the side of the Ladybird^ proved to be composed 
of planks, beams, and joists, all of which were duly hoisted up, 
and stowed in the hold of the brig. 

This set Rufus Dawes thinking. Could it possibly be that 



106 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

the timber-cutting was to be abandoned, and that the Govern- 
ment had hit upon some other method of utilizing its convict 
labour ? He had hewn timber and built boats, and tanned 
hides and made shoes. Was it possible that some new trade 
was to be initiated ? Before he had settled this point to his 
satisfaction, he was startled by another boat expedition. Three 
boats' crews went down the bay, and returned, after a day's 
absence, with an addition to their number in the shape of four 
strangers and a quantity of stores and farming implements. 
Rufus Dawes, catching sight of these last, came to the con- 
clusion that the boats had been to Philip Island, where the 
" garden " was established, and had taken off the gardeners and 
garden produce. Rufus Dawes decided that the Ladybird had 
brought a new commandant — his sight, trained by his half- 
savage life, had already distinguished Mr. Maurice Frere — and 
that these mysteries were " improvements " under the new rule. 
When he arrived at this point of reasoning, another conjecture, 
assuming his first to have been correct, followed as a natural 
consequence. Lieutenant Frere would be a more severe com- 
mandant than Major Vickers. Now, severity had already reached 
its height, so far as he was concerned ; so the unhappy man 
took a final resolution — he would kill himself. Before we ex- 
claim against the sin of such a determination, let us endeavour 
to set before us what the sinner had suffered during the past six 
years. 

We have already a notion of what life on a convict ship 
means ; and we have seen through what a furnace Rufus Dawes 
had passed before he set foot on the barren shore of Hell's Gates. 
But to appreciate in its intensity the agony he had suffered since 
that time, we must multiply the infamy of the 'tween decks of 
the Malabar an hundred fold. In that prison was at least some 
ray of light. All were not abominable ; all were not, utterly 
lost to shame and manhood. Stifling though the prison, in- 
famous the companionship, terrible the memory of past hap- 
piness — there was yet ignorance of the future, there was yet 
hope. But at Macquarie Harbour was poured out the very 
dregs of this cup of desolation. The worst had come, and the 
worst must for ever remain. The pit of torment was so deep 
that one could not even see Heaven. There was no hope there 
so long as life remained. Death alone kept the keys of that 
island prison. 



A LEAP IN THE DARK. 107 

Is it possible to imagine, even for a moment, what an in- 
nocent man, gifted with ambition, endowed with power to love 
and to respect, must have suffered during one week of such 
punishment ? We ordinary men, leading ordinary lives — walk- 
ing, riding, laughing, marrying and giving in marriage — can 
form no notion of such misery as this. Some dim ideas we may 
have about the sweetness of liberty and the loathing that evil 
company inspires ; but that is all. We know that were we chained 
and degraded, fed like dogs, employed as beasts of burden, 
driven to our daily toil with threats and blows, and herded with 
wretches among whom all that savours of decency and manli- 
ness is held in an open scorn, we should die, perhaps, or go 
mad. But we do not know, and can- never know, how unutter- 
ably loathsome life must become when shared with such beings 
as those who dragged the tree trunks to the banks of the Gor- 
don, and toiled, blaspheming, in their irons, on the dismal 
sandpit of Sarah Island. No human creature could describe to 
what depth of personal abasement and self-loathing one week of 
such a life would plunge him. Even if he had the power to 
write, he dared not. As one who, in a desert, seeking for a face, 
should come to a pool of blood, and seeing his own reflection, fly 
— so would such a one haster from the contemplation of his own 
degrading agony. Imagine such torment endured for six years ! 

Ignorant that the sights and sounds about him were symp- 
toms of the final abandonment of the settlement, and that the 
Ladybird was sent down to bring away the prisoners, Rufus 
Dawes decided upon getting rid of that burden of life which 
pressed upon him so heavily. For six years he had hewn wood 
and drawn water ; for six years he had hoped against hope ; for 
six years he had lived in the valley of the shadow of Death. 
He dared not recapitulate to himself what he had suffered. 
Indeed, his senses were deadened and dulled by torture. He 
cared to remember only one thing — that he was a Prisoner for 
Life. In vain had been his first dream of freedom. He had 
done his best, by good conduct, to win release ; but the villainy 
of Vetch and Rex had deprived him of the fruit of his labour. 
Instead of gaining credit by his exposure of the plot on board 
the Malabar, he was himself deemed guilty, and condemned, 
despite his asseverations of innocence. The knowledge of his 
"treachery" — for so it was deemed among his associates — while 
it gained for him no credit with the authorities, procured for him 



io8 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



the detestation and ill-will of the monsters among whom he 
found himself. On his arrival at Hell's Gates he was a marked 
man — a Pariah among those beings who were Pariahs to all the 
world beside. 

Thrice his life was attempted ; but he was not then quite tired 
of living, and he defended it. This defence was construed by 
an overseer into a brawl, and the irons from which he had been 
relieved were replaced. His strength — brute attribute that 
alone could avail him — made him respected after this, and he 
was left at peace. At first this treatment was congenial to his 
temperament ; but by-and-by it became annoying, then painful, 
then almost unendurable. Tugging at his oar, digging up to his 
waist in slime, or bending beneath his burden of pine-wood, he 
looked greedily for some excuse to be addressed. He would take 
double weight when forming part of the human caterpillar along 
whose back lay a pine-tree, for a word of fellowship. He would 
work double tides to gain a kindly sentence from a comrade. 
In his utter desolation he agonized for the friendship of robbers 
and murderers. Then the reaction came, and he hated the very 
sound of their voices. He never spoke, and refused to answer 
when spoken to. He would even take his scanty supper alone, 
did his chain so permit him. He gained the reputation of a 
sullen, dangerous, half-crazy ruffian. Captain Barton, the super- 
intendent, took pity on him, and made him his gardener. He 
accepted the pity for a week or so, and then Barton, coming 
down one morning, found the few shrubs pulled up by the roots, 
the flower-beds trampled into barrenness, and his gardener 
sitting on the ground among the fragments of his gardening 
tools. For this act of wanton mischief he was flogged. At the 
triangles his behaviour was considered curious. He wept and 
prayed to be released, fell on his knees to Barton, and implored 
pardon. Barton would not listen, and at the first blow the 
prisoner was silent. From that time he became more sullen 
than ever, only at times he was observed, when alone, to fling 
himself on the ground and cry like a child. It was generally 
thought that his brain was affected. 

When Vickers came, Dawes sought an interview, and begged 
to be sent back to Hobart Town. This was refused, of course, 
but he was put to work on the Osprcy. After working there 
for some time, and being released from his irons, he concealed 
himself on the slip, and in the evening swam across the harbour. 



A LEAP IN THE DARK. 109 

He was pursued, retaken, and flogged. Then he ran the dismal 
round of punishment. He burnt lime, dragged timber, and 
tugged at the oar. The heaviest and most degrading tasks were 
always his. Shunned and hated by his companions, feared by 
the convict overseers, and regarded with unfriendly eyes by the 
authorities, Rufus Dawes was at the very bottom of that abyss 
of woe into which he had voluntarily cast himself. Goaded to 
desperation by his own thoughts, he had joined with Gabbett 
and the unlucky three in their desperate attempt to escape ; but, 
as Vickers stated, he had been captured almost instantly. He 
was lamed by the heavy irons he wore, and though Gabbett — 
with a strange eagerness for which after events accounted — in- 
sisted that he could make good his flight, the unhappy man fell 
in the first hundred yards of the terrible race, and was seized by 
two volunteers before he could rise again. His capture helped 
to secure the brief freedom of his comrades ; for Mr. Troke, 
content with one prisoner, checked a pursuit which the nature 
of the ground rendered dangerous, and triumphantly brought 
Dawes back to the settlement as his peace-offering for the negli- 
gence which had resulted in the loss of the other four. For this 
madness the refractory convict had been condemned to the 
solitude of the Grummet Rock. 

In that dismal hermitage, his mind, preying on itself, had 
become disordered. He saw visions and dreamt dreams. He 
would lie for hours motionless, staring at the sun or the sea. 
He held converse with imaginary beings. He enacted the scene 
with his mother over again. He harangued the rocks, and 
called upon the stones about him to witness his innocence and 
his sacrifice. He was visited by the phantoms of his early 
friends, and sometimes thought his present life a dream. When- 
ever he awoke, however, he was commanded by a voice within 
himself to leap into the surges which washed the walls of his 
prison, and to dream these sad dreams no more. 

In the midst of this lethargy of body and brain, the unusual 
occurrences along the shore of the settlement roused in him a 
still fiercer hatred of life. He saw in them something incompre- 
hensible and terrible, and read in them threats of an increase of 
misery. Had he known that the Ladybird was preparing for 
sea, and that it had been already decided to fetch him from this 
rock and iron him with the rest for safe passage to Hobart 
Town, he might have paused ; but he knew nothing, save that 



HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



the burden of life was insupportable, and that the time had 
come for him to be rid of it. 

In the meantime, the settlement was in a fever of excitement 
In less than three weeks from the announcement made by 
Vickers, all had been got ready. The Commandant had finally 
arranged with Frere as to his course of action. He himself 
would accompany the Ladybird with the main body. His wife 
and daughter were to remain until the sailing of the Osprey, 
which Mr. Frere — charged with the task of final destruction — 
was to bring up as soon as possible. " I will leave you a cor- 
poral's guard, and ten prisoners as a crew," Vickers said. " You 
can work her easily with that number." To which Frere, 
smiling at Mrs. Vickers in a self-satisfied way, had replied 
that he could do with five prisoners if necessary, for he knew 
how to get double work out of the lazy dogs. 

Among the incidents which took place during the breaking 
up, was one which it is necessary to chronicle. Near Philip's 
Island, on the north side of the harbour, is situated Coal Head, 
where a party had been lately at work. This party, hastily with- 
drawn by Vickers to assist in the business of devastation, had 
left behind it some tools and timber, and at the eleventh hour a 
boat's crew was sent to bring away the debris. The tools were 
duly collected, and the pine logs — worth twenty-five shillings 
apiece in Hobart Town — duly rafted and chained. The timber 
was secured, and the convicts, towing it after them, pulled for 
the ship just as the sun sank. In the general relaxation of dis- 
cipline and haste, the raft had not been made with as much care 
as usual, and the strong current against which the boat was 
labouring assisted the negligence of the convicts. The logs 
began to loosen, and though the onward motion of the boat kept 
the chain taut, when the rowers slackened their exertions the 
mass parted, and Mr. Troke, hooking himself on to the side of 
the Ladybird, saw a huge log slip out from its fellows and 
disappear into the darkness. Gazing after it with an indignant 
and disgusted stare, as though it had been a refractory prisoner 
who merited two days " solitary," he thought he heard a cry 
from the direction in which it had been borne. He would have 
paused to listen, but all his attention was needed to save the 
timber, and to prevent the boat from being swamped by the 
struggling mass at her stern. 

The cry had proceeded from Rufus Dawes. From his solitary 



A LEAP IN TILE DARK. 



rock he had watched the boat pass him and make for the Lady- 
bird in channel, and he had decided — with that curious childish- 
ness into which the mind relapses on such supreme occasions — ■ 
that the moment when the gathering gloom swallowed her up, 
should be the moment when he would plunge into the surge 
below him. The heavily-labouring boat grew dimmer and 
dimmer, as each tug of the oars took her farther from him. 
Presently, only the figure of Mr. Troke in the stern sheets was 
visible ; then that also disappeared, and as the nose of the 
timber raft rose on the swell of the next wave, Rufus Dawes 
flung himself into the sea. 

He was heavily ironed, and he sank like a stone. He had 
resolved not to attempt to swim, and for the first moment kept 
his arms raised above his head, in order to sink the quicker. 
But, as the short, sharp agony of suffocation caught him, and 
the shock of the icy water dispelled the mental intoxication 
under which he was labouring, he desperately struck out, and, 
despite the weight of his irons, gained the surface for an instant. 
As he did so, all bewildered, and with the one savage instinct ot 
self-preservation predominant over all other thoughts, he became 
conscious of a huge black mass surging upon him out of the 
darkness. An instant's buffet with the current, an ineffectual 
attempt to dive beneath it, a horrible sense that the weight at 
his feet was dragging him down, — and the huge log, loosened 
from the raft, was upon him, crushing him beneath its rough 
and ragged sides. All thoughts of self-murder vanished with 
the presence of actual peril, and uttering that despairing cry 
which had been faintly heard by Troke, he flung up his arms to 
clutch the monster that was pushing him down to death. The 
log passed completely over him, thrusting him beneath the water, 
but his hand, scraping along the splintered side, came in contact 
with the loop of hide rope that yet hung round the mass, and 
clutched it with the tenacity of a death grip. In another instant 
he got his head above water, and making good his hold, twisted 
himself, by a violent effort, across the log. 

For a moment he saw the lights from the stern windows of the 
anchored vessels low in the distance, Grummet Rock disappeared 
on his left, then, exhausted, breathless, and bruised, he closed 
his eyes, and the drifting log bore him swiftly and silently away 
into the darkness. 

****** 



HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



At daylight the next morning, Mr. Troke, landing on the prison 
rock, found it deserted. The prisoner's cap was lying on the 
edge of the little cliff, but the prisoner himself had disappeared. 
Pulling back to the Ladybird, the intelligent Troke pondered on 
the circumstance, and in delivering his report to Vickers men- 
tioned the strange cry he had heard the night before. " It's my 
belief, sir, that he was trying to swim the bay," he said. " He 
must ha' gone to the bottom anyhow, for he couldn't swim five 
yards with them irons." 

Vickers, busily engaged in getting under weigh, accepted this 
very natural supposition without question. The prisoner had 
met his death either by his own act, or by accident. It was 
either a suicide or an attempt to escape, and the former conduct 
of Rufus Dawes rendered the latter explanation a more probable 
one. In any case, he was dead. As Mr. Troke rightly surmised, 
no man could swim the bay in irons ; and when the Ladybird, 
an hour later, passed the Grummet Rock, all on board her 
believed that the corpse of its late occupant was lying beneath 
the waves that seethed at its base. 



CHAPTER VII. 

THE LAST OF MACQUARIE HARBOUR. 

RUFUS DAWES was believed to be dead by the party on 
board the L,adybird, and his strange escape was unknown 
to those still at Sarah Island. Maurice Frere, if he 
bestowed a thought upon the refractory prisoner cf the Rock, 
believed him to be safely stowed in the hold of the schooner, 
and already half way to Hobart Town ; while not one of the 
eighteen persons on board the Osprey suspected that the boat 
which had put off for the marooned man had returned without 
him. Indeed the party had little leisure for thought ; Mr. Frere, 
eager to prove his ability and energy, was making strenuous 
exertions to get away, and kept his unlucky ten so hard at work 
that within a week from the departure of the Ladybird the 
Osprey was ready for sea. Mrs. Vickers and the child, having 
watched with some excusable regret the process of demolishing 
their old home, had settled down in their small cabin in the 



THE LAST OF MACQUARIE HARBOUR. 113 

brig, and on the evening of the nth of January, Mr. Bates, the 
pilot, who acted as master, informed the crew that Lieutenant 
Frere had given orders to weigh anchor at daybreak. 

At daybreak accordingly the brig set sail, with a light breeze 
from the south-west, and by three o'clock in the afternoon 
anchored safely outside the Gates. Unfortunately the wind 
shifted to the north-west, which caused a heavy swell on the bar 
and prudent Mr. Bates, having consideration for Mrs. Vickers 
and the child, ran back ten miles into Wellington Bay, and an- 
chored there again at seven o'clock in the evening. The tide was 
running strongly, and the brig rolled a good deal. Mrs. Vickers 
kept her cabin, and sent Sylvia to entertain Lieutenant Frere. 
Sylvia went, but was not entertaining. She had conceived for 
Frere one of those violent antipathies which children sometimes 
own without reason, and since the memorable night of the 
apology had been barely civil to him. In vain did he pet her 
and compliment her, she was not to be flattered into liking 
him. " I do not like you, sir," she said in her stilted fashion, 
"but that need make no difference to you. You occupy your- 
self with your prisoners ; I can amuse myself without you, thank 
you." "Oh, all right !" said Frere, "I don't want to interfere ;" 
but he felt a little nettled nevertheless. On this particular even- 
ing the young lady relaxed her severity of demeanour. Her 
father away, and her mother sick, the little maiden felt lonely, 
and as a last resource accepted her mother's commands and 
went to Frere. He was walking up and down the deck, smoking. 

" Mr. Frere, I am sent to talk to you." 

" Are you ? All right — go on." 

" Oh dear no. It is the gentleman's place to entertain. Be 
amusing!" 

"Come and sit down then, and we'll talk," said Frere, who 
was in good humour at the success of his arrangements. " What 
shall wc talk about?" 

" You stupid man ! As if I knew ! It is your place to talk. 
Fell me a fairy story." 

'"Jack and the Beanstalk'?" suggested Frere. 

" Jack and the grandmother! Nonsense ! Make one up out 
of your head, you know." 

Frere laughed. 

" I can't," he said. " I never did such a thing in my life." 

" Then why not begin ? I shall go away if you don't begin." 

8 



114 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

Frere rubbed his brows. " Well, have you read — have you 
read 'Robinson Crusoe'?" — as if the idea was the most brilliant 
one in the world. 

" Of course I have," returned Sylvia, pouting. "Read it? — 
yes. Everybody's read 'Robinson Crusoe' !" 

" Oh, have they ? Well, I didn't know ; let me see now." 
And pulling hard at his pipe, he plunged into literary reflection. 

Sylvia sitting beside him, eagerly watching for the happy 
thought that never came, pouted and said, "What a stupid, 
stupid man you are ! I shall be so glad to get back to papa 
again. He knows all sorts of stories, nearly as many as old 
Danny." 

" Danny knows some, then ? " 

" Danny ! " — with as much surprise as if she said " Walter 
Scott ! " " Of course he does. I suppose now," putting her 
head on one side, with an amusing expression of superiority, 
" you never heard the story of the Banshee ? " 

" No, I never did." 

" Nor the ' White Horse of the Peppers ' ?" 

" No." 

" No, I suppose not. Nor the ' Changeling'? nor the ' Lepre- 
chaun'?" 

" No." 

Sylvia got off the skylight on which she had been sitting, 
and surveyed the smoking animal beside her with profound 
contempt. 

" Mr. Frere, you are really a most ignorant person. Excuse 
me if I hurt your feelings ; I have no wish to do that ; but really 
you are a most ignorant person — for your age, of course.^ 

Maurice Frere grew a little angry. " You are very imperti- 
nent, Sylvia," said he. 

u Miss Vickers is my name, Lieutenant Frere, and I shall go 
and talk to Mr. Bates." 

Which threat she carried out on the spot ; and Mr. Bates, 
who had filled the dangerous office of pilot, told her about 
divers and coral reefs, and some adventures of his — a little 
apocryphal — in the China seas. Frere resumed his smoking, 
half angry with himself, and half angry with the provoking 
little fairy. This elfin creature had a fascination for him which 
he could not account for. 

However, he saw her no more that evening, and at breakfast 



THE LAST OF MACQUARIE HARBOUR. 115 



the next morning she received him with quaint haughti- 
ness. 

" When shall we be ready to sail ? Mr. Frcre, I'll take some 
marmalade. Thank you." 

" I don't know, Missy," said Bates. " It's very rough on the 
Bar ; me and Mr. Frere was a soundin' of it this marnin', and 
it ain't safe yet." 

" Well," said Sylvia, " I do hope and trust we sha'n't be ship- 
wrecked, and have to swim miles and miles for our lives." 

" Ho, ho ! " laughed Frere ; " don't be afraid. I'll take care 
of you." 

" Can you swim, Mr. Bates ? " asked Sylvia. 
"Yes, Miss, I can." 

"Well, then, you shall take me ; I like you. Mr. Frere can 
take mamma. We'll go and live on a desert island, Mr. Bates, 
won't we, and grow cocoa-nuts and bread-fruit, and — what nasty 
hard biscuits ! — I'll be Robinson Crusoe and you shall be Man 
Friday. I'd like to live on a desert island, if I was sure there 
were no savages, and plenty to eat and drink." 

" That would be right enough, my dear, but you don't find 
them sort of islands every day." 

" Then" said Sylvia, with a decided nod, " we won't be ship- 
wrecked, will we ? " 

" I hope not, my dear." 

" Put a biscuit in your pocket, Sylvia, in case of accidents," 
suggested Frere, with a grin. 

" Oh ! you know my opinion of you, sir. Don't speak ; I 
don't want any argument." 
" Don't you ?— that's right." 

"Mr. Frcre," said Sylvia, gravely pausing at her mother's 
cabin door, " if I were Richard the Third, do you know what 
I'd do with you?" 

" No," says Frere, eating complacently ; " what would you do ?" 
" Why, I'd make you stand at the door of St. Paul's Cathedral 
in a white sheet, with a lighted, candle in your hand, until you 
gave up your wicked aggravating ways — you Man ! " 

The picture of Mr. Frere in a white sheet, with a lighted 
candle in his hand, at the door of St. Paul's Cathedral, was too 
much for Mr. Bates's gravity, and he roared with laughter. 
" She's a queer child, ain't she, sir? A born nateral, and yet a 
good-natered little soul." 



n6 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

"When shall we be able to get away, Mr. Bates?'' asked 
Frere, whose dignity was wounded by the mirth of the pilot. 

Bates felt the change of tone, and hastened to accommodate 
himself to his officer's humour. " I hopes by evening, sir," said 
he ; " if the tide slackens then I'll risk it ; but it's no use trying 
it now." 

"The men were wanting to go ashore to wash their clothes," 
said Frere. " If we are to stop here till evening, you had better 
let them go after dinner." 

"All right, sir," said Bates. 

The afternoon passed off auspiciously. The ten prisoners 
went ashore and washed their clothes. Their names were 
James Barker, James Lesly, John Lyon, Benjamin Riley, 
William Cheshire, Henry Shiers, William Russen, James 
Porter, John Fair, and John Rex. 

This last scoundrel had come on board latest of all. He had 
behaved himself a little better recently, and during the work 
attendant upon the departure of the Ladybird, had been con- 
spicuously useful. His intelligence and influence among his 
fellow prisoners combined to make him a somewhat important 
personage, and Vickers had allowed him privileges from which 
he had been hitherto debarred. Mr. Frere, however, who super- 
intended the shipment of some stores, seemed to be resolved 
to take advantage of Rex's evident willingness to work. He 
never ceased to hurry and find fault with him. He vowed that 
he was lazy, sulky, or impertinent. It was "Rex, come here ! 
Do this ! Do that ! " As the prisoners declared among them- 
selves, it was evident that Mr. Frere had a "down" On the 
Dandy. The day before the Ladybird sailed, Rex — rejoicing in 
the hope of speedy departure — had suffered himself to reply to 
some more than usually galling remark, and Mr. Frere had 
complained to Vickers. " The fellow's too ready to get away," 
said he. " Let him stop for the Osprcy, it will be a lesson to 
him." 

Vickers assented, and John Rex was informed that he was 
not to sail with the first party. His comrades vowed that this 
order was an act of tyranny ; but he himself said nothing. He 
only redoubled his activity, and — despite all his wish to the con- 
trary— Frere was unable to find fault. He even took credit to 
himself for "taming'' the convict's spirit, and pointed out Rex 
— silent and obedient — as a proof of the excellence of severe 



the power oe the wilderness. n? 

measures. To the convicts, however, who knew John Rex 
better, this silent activity was ominous. 

He returned with the rest, however, on the evening of the 
13th, in apparently cheerful mood. Indeed Mr. Frere, who, 
wearied by the delay, had decided to take the whaleboat in 
which the prisoners had returned, and catch a few fish before 
dinner, observed him laughing with some of the others, and 
again congratulated himself. 

The time wore on. Darkness was closing in, and Mr. Bates, 
walking the deck, kept a look-out for the boat, with the inten- 
tion of weighing anchor and making for the bar. All was secure. 
Mrs. Vickers and the child were safely below. The two remain- 
ing soldiers (two had gone with Frere) were upon deck, and the 
prisoners in the forecastle were singing. The wind was fair, 
and the sea had gone down. In less than an hour the Osprey 
would be safely outside the Harbour. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

THE POWER OF THE WILDERNESS. 

THE drifting log that had so strangely served as a means of 
saving Rufus Dawes swam with the current that was run- 
ning out of the bay. For some time the burden that it 
bore was an insensible one. Exhausted with his desperate struggle 
for life, the convict lay along the rough back of this Heaven- 
sent raft without motion, almost without breath. At length a 
violent shock awoke him to consciousness, and he perceived 
that the log had become stranded on a sandy point, the ex- 
tremity of which was lost in darkness. Painfully raising him- 
self from his uncomfortable posture, he staggered to his feet, 
and crawling a few paces up the beach, flung himself upon the 
ground and slept. 

When morning dawned, he recognised his position. The log 
had, in passing under the lee of Philip Island, been cast upon 
the southern point of Coal Head, and some three hundred yards 
from him were the mutilated sheds of the coal-gang. For some 
time he lay still, basking in the warm rays of the rising sun, 
and scarcely caring to move his bruised and shattered limbs. 
The sensation of rest was so exquisite, that it overpowered all 



n8 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

other considerations, and he did not even trouble himself to 
conjecture the reason for the apparent desertion of the huts 
close by him. If there was no one there — well and good. If 
the coal party had not gone, he would be discovered in a few 
moments, and brought back to his island prison. In his exhaus- 
tion and misery, he accepted the alternative and slept again. 

As he laid down his aching head, Mr. Troke was reporting 
his death to Vickers, and while he still slept, the Ladybird, on 
her way out, passed him so closely, that any one on board her 
might, with a good glass, have espied his slumbering figure as 
it lay upon the sand. 

When he woke it was past mid-day, and the sun poured its 
full rays upon him. His clothes were dry in all places, save the 
side on which he had been lying, and he rose to his feet re- 
freshed by his long sleep. He scarcely comprehended, as yet, 
his true position. He had escaped, it was true, but not for long. 
He was versed in the history of escapes, and knew that a man 
alone on that barren coast was face to face with starvation or 
recapture. Glancing up at the sun, he wondered, indeed, how 
it was that he had been free so long. Then the coal sheds 
caught his eye, and he understood that they were untenanted. 
This astonished him, and he began to tremble with vague 
apprehension. Entering, he looked around, expecting every 
moment to see some lurking constable, or armed soldier. Sud- 
denly his glance fell upon the loaves which lay in the corner 
where the departing convicts had flung them the night before. 
At such a moment, this discovery seemed like a direct revelation 
from Heaven. He would not have been surprised had they 
disappeared. Had he lived in another age, he would have 
looked round for the angel who had brought them. 

By-and-by, having eaten of this miraculous provender, the 
poor creature began— reckoning by his convict experience— to 
understand what had taken place. The coal workings were 
abandoned ; the new Commandant had probably other work 
for his beasts of burden to execute, and an absconder would be 
safe here for a few hours at least. But he must not stay. For 
him there was no rest. If he thought -to escape, it behoved 
him to commence his journey at once. As he contemplated 
the meat and bread, something like a ray of hope entered his 
gloomy soul. Here was provision for his needs. The food 
before him represented the rations of six men. Was it not 



THE F GIVER OF THE WILDERNESS. 119 

possible to cross the desert that lay between him and freedom 
on such fare ? The very supposition made his heart beat faster. 
It surely was possible. He must husband his resources ; walk 
much and eat little ; spread out the food for one day into the 
food for three. Here was six men's food for one day, or one 
man's food for six days. He would live on a third of this, and 
he would have rations for eighteen days. Eighteen days ! What 
could he not do in eighteen days? He could walk thirty miles a 
day — forty miles a day — that would be six hundred miles and 
more. Yet stay ; he must not be too sanguine ; the road was 
difficult ; the scrub was in places impenetrable. He would have 
to make detours, and turn upon his tracks, to waste precious 
time. He would be moderate, and say twenty miles a day. 
Twenty miles a day was very easy walking. Taking a piece of 
stick from the ground, he made the calculation in the sand. 
Eighteen days, and twenty miles a day— three hundred and 
sixty miles. More than enough to take him to freedom. It 
could be done ! With prudence, it could be done ! He must 
be careful and abstemious. Abstemious ! He had already 
eaten too much, and he hastily pulled a barely-tasted piece of 
meat from his mouth, and replaced it with the rest. The action 
which at any other time would have seemed disgusting, was, in 
the case of this poor creature, merely pitiable. 

Having come to this resolution, the next thing was to disen- 
cumber himself of his irons. This was more easily done than he 
expected. He found in the shed an iron gad, and with that and 
a stone he drove out the rivets. The rings were too strong to be 
"ovallcd,"* or he would have been free long ago. He packed 
the meat and bread together, and then pushing the gad into his 
belt — it might be needed as a weapon of defence — he set out on 
his journey. 

His intention was to get round the settlement to the coast, 
reach the settled districts, and, by some tale of shipwreck or of 
wandering, procure assistance. As to what was particularly to 
be done when he found himself among free men, he did not 
pause to consider. At that point his difficulties seemed to him 
to end. Let him but traverse the desert that was before him, 
and he would trust to his own ingenuity, or the chance of for- 

* Ova I led — "To oval " is a term in use among convicts, and means to 
so bend the round ring of the ankle fetter that the heel can be drawn up 
through it. 



HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



tune, to avert suspicion. The peril of immediate detection was 
so imminent, that, beside it, all other fears were dwarfed into 
insignificance. 

Before dawn next morning he had travelled ten miles, and by 
husbanding his food, he succeeded by the night of the fourth 
day in accomplishing forty more. Footsore and weary, he lay 
in a thicket of the thorny melaleuca, and felt at last that he was 
beyond pursuit. The next day he advanced more slowly. The 
bush was unpropitious. Dense scrub and savage jungle im- 
peded his path ; barren and stony mountain ranges arose before 
him. He was lost in gullies, entangled in thickets, bewildered 
in morasses. The sea that had hitherto gleamed, salt, glittering, 
and hungry upon his right hand, now shifted to his left. He had 
mistaken his course, and he must turn again. For two days 
did this bewilderment last, and on the third he came to a mighty 
cliff that pierced with its blunt pinnacle the clustering bush. 
He must go over or round this obstacle, and he decided to go 
round it. A natural pathway wound about its foot. Here and 
there branches were broken, and it seemed to the poor wretch, 
fainting under the weight of his lessening burden, that his were 
not the first footsteps which had trodden there. The path 
terminated in a glade, and at the bottom of this glade was 
something that fluttered. Rufus Dawes pressed forward, 
and stumbled over a corpse ! 

In the terrible stillness of that solitary place he felt suddenly 
as though a voice had called to him. All the hideous fantastic 
tales of murder which he had read or heard seemed to take 
visible shape in the person of the loathly carcase before him, 
clad in the yellow dress of a convict, and lying flung together 
on the ground as though struck down. Stooping over it, im- 
pelled by an irresistible impulse to know the worst, he found 
the body was mangled. One arm was missing, and the skull 
had been beaten in by some heavy instrument ! The first 
thought — that this heap of rags and bones was a mute witness 
to the folly of his own undertaking, the corpse of some starved 
absconder — gave place to a second more horrible suspicion. 
He recognised the number imprinted on the coarse cloth as that 
which had designated the younger of the two men who had 
escaped with Gabbett. He was standing on the place where a 
murder had been committed ! A murder ! — and what else ? 
Thank God the food he carried was not yet exhausted ! He 



THE POWER OF THE WILDERNESS. 121 

turned and fled, looking back fearfully as he went. He could 
not breathe in the shadow of that awful mountain. 

Crashing through scrub and brake, torn, bleeding, and wild 
with terror, he reached a spur of the Range, and looked around 
him. Above him rose the iron hills, below him lay the pano- 
rama of the bush. The white cone of the Frenchman's Cap 
was on his right hand, on his left a succession of ranges seemed 
to bar further progress. A gleam, as of a lake, streaked the 
eastward. Gigantic pine trees reared their graceful heads 
against the opal of the evening sky, and at their feet the dense 
scrub through which he had so painfully toiled, spread without 
break and without flaw. It seemed as though he could leap 
from where he stood upon a solid mass of tree-tops. He raised 
his eyes, and right against him, like a long dull sword, lay the 
narrow steel-blue reach of the harbour from which he had 
escaped. One darker speck moved on the dark water. It was 
the Osprey making for the Gates. It seemed that he could 
throw a stone upon her deck. A faint cry of rage escaped him. 
During the last three days in the bush he must have retraced 
his steps, and returned upon his own track to the settlement ! 
More than half his allotted time had passed, and he was not 
yet thirty miles from his prison. Death had waited to overtake 
him in this barbarous wilderness. As a cat allows a mouse to 
escape her for a while, so had he been permitted to trifle with 
his fate, and lull himself into a false security. Escape was 
hopeless now. He never could escape ; and as the unhappy 
man raised his despairing eyes, he saw that the sun, redly 
sinking behind a lofty pine which topped the opposite hill, shot 
a ray of crimson light into the glade below him. It was as 
though a bloody finger pointed at the corpse which lay there, 
and Rufus Dawes, shuddering at the dismal omen, averting his 
face, plunged again into the forest. 

For four days he wandered aimlessly through the bush. He 
had given up all hopes of making the overland journey, and yet, 
as long as his scanty supply of food held out, he strove to keep 
away from the settlement. Unable to resist the pangs of hunger, 
he had increased his daily ration ; and though the salted meat, 
exposed to rain and heat, had begun to turn putrid, he never 
looked at it but he was seized with a desire to cat his fill. The 
coarse lumps of carrion and the hard rye-loaves were to him 
delicious morsels fit for the table of an emperor. Once or twice 



HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



he was constrained to pluck and eat the tops of tea-trees and 
peppermint shrubs. These had an aromatic taste, and sufficed 
to stay the cravings of hunger for a while, but they induced a 
raging thirst, which he slaked at the icy mountain springs. Had 
it not been for the frequency of these streams, he must have 
died in a few days. At last, on the twelfth day from his depar- 
ture from the Coal Head, he found himself at the foot of Mount 
Direction, at the head of the peninsula which makes the western 
side of the harbour. His terrible wandering had but led him 
to make a complete circuit of the settlement, and the next night 
brought him round the shores of Birches Inlet to the landing- 
place opposite to Sarah Island. His stock of provisions had 
been exhausted for two days, and he was savage with hunger. 
He no longer thought of suicide. His dominant idea was now 
to get food. He would do as many others had done before him 
— give himself up to be flogged and fed. When he reached the 
landing-place, however, the guard-house was empty. He looked 
across at the island prison, and saw no sign of life. The settle- 
ment was deserted ! 

The shock of this discovery almost deprived him of reason. 
For days, that had seemed centuries, he had kept life in his 
jaded and lacerated body solely by the strength of his fierce 
determination to reach the settlement ; and now that he had 
reached it, after a journey oi unparalleled horror, he found it 
deserted. He struck himself to see if he was not dreaming. 
He refused to believe his eyesight. He shouted, screamed, 
and waved his tattered garments in the air. Exhausted by these 
paroxysms, he said to himself, quite calmly, that the sun beating 
on his unprotected head had dazed his brain, and that in a few 
moments he should see well-remembered boats pulling towards 
him. Then, when no boat came, he argued that he was mis- 
taken in the place ; the island yonder was not Sarah Island, but 
some other island like it, and that in a second or so he would 
be able to detect the difference. But the inexorable mountains, 
so hideously familiar for six weary years, made mute reply, and 
the sea, crawling at his feet, seemed to grin at him with a thin- 
lipped, hungry mouth. Yet the fact of the desertion seemed so 
inexplicable that he could not realize it. He felt as might have 
felt that wanderer in the enchanted mountains, who, returning 
in the morning to look for his companions, found them turned 
to stone. 



THE SEIZURE OF THE " OSPREY:' 123 

At last the dreadful truth forced itself upon him ; he retired 
a few paces,, and then, with a horrible cry of furious despair, 
stumbled forward towards the edge of the little reef that fringed 
the shore. Just as he was about to fling himself for the second 
time into the dark water, his eyes, sweeping in a last long 
look around the bay, caught sight of a strange appearance on 
the left horn of the sea beach. A thin, blue streak, uprising 
from behind the western arm of the little inlet, hung in the still 
air. It was the smoke of a fire ! 

The dying wretch felt inspired with new hope. God had sent 
him a direct sign from Heaven. The tiny column of bluish 
vapour seemed to him as glorious as the Pillar of Fire that led 
the Israelites. There were yet human beings near him ! — and 
turning his face from the hungry sea, he tottered with the last 
effort of his failing strength towards the blessed token of their 
presence. 



CHAPTER IX. 

THE SEIZURE OF THE " OSPREY." 

FRERE'S fishing expedition had been unsuccessful, and in 
consequence prolonged. The obstinacy of his character 
appeared in the most trifling circumstances, and though 
the fast deepening shades of an Australian evening urged him 
to return, yet he lingered, unwilling to come-back empty-handed. 
At last a peremptory signal warned him. It was the sound of 
a musket fired on board the brig : Mr. Bates was getting im- 
patient ; and with a scowl, Frere drew up his lines, and ordered 
the two soldiers to pull for the vessel. 

The Osprcy yet sat motionless on the water, and her bare 
masts gave no sign of making sail. To the soldiers, pulling 
with their backs to her, the musket shot seemed the most 
ordinary occurrence in the world. Eager to emit the dismal 
prison-bay, they had viewed Mr. Frere's persistent fishing with 
disgust, and had for the previous half-hour longed to hear the 
signal of recall which had just startled them. Suddenly, how- 
ever, they noticed a change of expression in the sullen face of 
their commander. Frere, sitting in the stern sheets, with his 



I2 4 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



face to the Osprey, had observed a peculiar appearance on her 
decks. The bulwarks were every now and then topped by 
strange figures, who disappeared as suddenly as they came, and 
a faint murmur of voices floated across the intervening sea. 
Presently the report of another musket shot echoed among the 
hills, and something dark fell from the side of the vessel into 
the water. Frere, with an imprecation of mingled alarm and 
indignation, sprang to his feet, and shading his eyes with his 
hand, looked towards the brig. The soldiers, resting on their 
oars, imitated his gesture, and the whale-boat, thus thrown out 
of trim, rocked from side to side dangerously. A moment's 
anxious pause, and then another musket shot, followed by a 
woman's shrill scream, explained all. The prisoners had seized 
the brig ! " Give way ! " cried Frere, pale with rage and appre- 
hension, and the soldiers, realizing at once the full terror of their 
position, forced the heavy whale-boat through the water as fast 
as the one miserable pair of oars could take her. 



Mr. Bates, affected by the insidious influence of the hour, and 
lulled into a sense of false security, had gone below to tell his 
little playmate that she would soon be on her way to the Hobart 
Town of which she had heard so much ; and, taking advantage 
of his absence, the soldier not on guard went to the forecastle 
to hear the prisoners singing. He found the ten together, in 
high good humour, listening to a " shanty " sung by three of 
their number. The voices were melodious enough, and the 
words of the ditty — chanted by many stout fellows in many a 
forecastle before and since — of that character which pleases the 
soldier nature. Private Grimes forgot all about the unprotected 
state of the deck, and sat down to listen. 

While he listened, absorbed in tender recollections, James 
Lesly, William Cheshire, William Russen, John Fair, and James 
Barker slipped to the hatchway and got upon deck. Barker 
reached the aft hatchway as the soldier who was on guard 
turned to complete his walk, and passing his arm round his 
neck, pulled him down before he could utter a cry. In the con- 
fusion of the moment the man loosed his grasp of the musket 
to grapple with his unseen antagonist, and Fair, snatching up 
the weapon, swore to blow out his brains if he raised a finger. 
Seeing the sentry thus secured, Cheshire, as if in pursuance of 



THE SEIZURE OF THE " OSPREY." 125 

a preconcerted plan, leapt down the after-hatchway, and passed 
up the muskets from the arm-racks to Lesly and Russen. 
There were three muskets in addition to the one taken from the 
sentry, and Barker, leaving his prisoner in charge of Fair, seized 
one of them, and ran to the companion ladder. Russen, left 
unarmed by this manoeuvre, appeared to know his own duty. 
He came back to the forecastle, and passing behind the listen- 
ing soldier, touched the singer on the shoulder. This was the 
appointed signal, and John Rex, suddenly terminating his song 
with a laugh, presented his fist in the face of the gaping Grimes. 
" No noise ! " he cried. " The brig's ours ; " and ere Grimes 
could reply, he was seized by Lyon and Riley, and bound 
securely. 

" Come on, lads ! " says Rex, " and pass the prisoner down 
here. We've got her this time, I'll go bail ! " In obedience to 
this order, the now gagged sentry was flung clown the fore hatch- 
way, and the hatch secured. " Stand on the hatchway, Porter," 
cries Rex again ; "and if those fellows come up knock 'em 
down with a handspike. Lesly and Russen, forward to the 
companion ladder ! Lyon, keep a look-out for the boat, and if 
she comes too near, fire ! " 

As he spoke the report of the first musket rang out. Barker 
had apparently fired up the companion hatchway. 



When Mr. Bates had gone below, he found Sylvia curled 
upon the cushions of the state-room, reading. " Well, Missy ! " 
he said, " we'll soon be on our way to papa." 

Sylvia answered by asking a question altogether foreign to 
the subject. " Mr. Bates," said she, pushing the hair out of 
her blue eyes, " what's a coracle ! " 

" A which ? " asked Mr. Bates. 

" A coracle. C-o-r-a-c-l-e," said she, spelling it slowly. " I 
want to know." 

The bewildered Bates shook his head. " Never heard of one, 
Missy," said he, bending over the book. " What does it say ? " 

" ' The ancient Britons,' " said Sylvia, reading gravely, " ' were 
little better than barbarians. They painted their bodies with 
woad,' — that's blue stuff, you know, Mr. Bates — ' and, seated 
in their light coracles of skin stretched upon slender wooden 
frames, must have presented a wild and savage appearance.' " 



126 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

"Hah," said Mr. Bates, when this remarkable passage was 
read to him, " that's very mysterious, that is. A corricle, a 
cory — ," a bright light burst upon him. " A curricle you mean, 
Miss ! It's a carriage ! I've seen 'em in Hy' Park, with young 
bloods a drivin' of 'em." 

" What are young bloods ? " asked Sylvia, rushing at this 
" new opening." 

"Oh, nobs ! Swell coves, don't you know," returned poor 
Bates, thus again attacked. " Young men o' fortune that is, 
that's given to doing it grand." 

"I see," said Sylvia, waving her little hand graciously, 
— " Noblemen and Princes and that sort of people. Quite so. 
But what about coracle?" 

" Well," said the humbled Bates, " / think it's a carriage, 
Missy. A sort of Pheayton, as they call it." 

Sylvia, hardly satisfied, returned to the book. It was a little 
mean-looking volume — a " Child's History of England," — and 
after perusing it awhile with knitted brows, she burst into a 
childish laugh. 

"Why, my dear Mr. Bates !" she cried, waving the History 
above her head in triumph, " what a pair of geese we are ! A 
carriage / Oh you silly man ! It's a boat ! " 

" Is it ? " said Mr. Bates, in admiration of the intelligence of 
his companion. " Who'd ha' thought that now ? Why couldn't 
they call it a boat at once, then, and ha' done with it ? " and he 
was about to laugh also, when, raising his eyes, he saw in the open 
doorway the figure of James Barker, with a musket in his hand. 

" Hallo ! What's this ? What do you do here, sir ? " 

" Sorry to disturb yer," says the convict, with a grin, " but you 
must come along o' me, Mr. Bates." 

Bates, at once comprehending that some terrible misfortune 
had occurred, did not lose his presence of mind. One of the 
cushions of the couch was under his right hand, and snatching 
it up, he flung it across the little cabin full in the face of the 
escaped prisoner. The soft mass struck the man with force suf- 
ficient to blind him for an instant. The musket exploded harm- 
lessly in the air, and ere the astonished Barker could recover his 
footing, Bates had hurled him out of the cabin, and crying 
" Mutiny ! " locked the cabin door on the inside. 

The noise brought out Mrs. Vickers from her berth, and the 
poor little student of English history ran into her arms. 



THE SEIZURE OF THE "OSPREY." 127 

" Good heavens, Mr. Bates, what is it ? " 

Bates, furious with rage, so far forgot himself as to swear. 
" It's a mutiny, ma'am," said he. " Go back to your cabin and 
lock the door. Those bloody villains have risen on us ! " Julia 
Vickers felt her heart grow sick. Was she never to escape out 
of this dreadful life ? " Go into your cabin, ma'am," says Bates 
again, and don't move a finger till I tell ye. Maybe it ain't so 
bad as it looks ; I've got my pistols with me, thank God, and 
Mr. Frere '11 hear the shot anyway. Mutiny ! On deck there ! " 
he cried at the full pitch of his voice, and his brow grew damp 
with dismay when a mocking laugh from above was the only 
response. 

Thrusting the woman and child into the state berth, the be- 
wildered pilot cocked a pistol, and snatching a cutlass from the 
arm stand fixed to the butt of the mast which penetrated the 
cabin, he burst open the door with his foot, and rushed to the 
companion ladder. Barker had retreated to the deck, and for 
an instant he thought the way was clear, but Lesly and Russen 
thrust him back with the muzzles of the loaded muskets. He 
struck at Russen with the cutlass, missed him, and seeing the 
hopelessness of the attack, was fain to retreat. 

In the meanwhile, Grimes and the other soldier had loosed 
themselves from their bonds, and encouraged by the firing, 
which seemed to them a sign that all was not yet lost, made shift 
to force up the forehatch. Porter, whose courage was none of 
the fiercest, and who had been for years given over to that terror 
of discipline which servitude induces, made but a feeble attempt 
at resistance, and forcing the handspike from him, the sentry, 
Jones, rushed aft to help the pilot. As Jones reached the waist, 
Cheshire, a cold-blooded blue-eyed man, shot him dead. Grimes 
fell over the corpse, and Cheshire, clubbing the musket — had he 
another barrel he would have fired, — coolly battered his head as 
he lay, and then seizing the body of the unfortunate Jones in his 
arms, tossed it into the sea. " Porter, you lubber ! " he cried, 
exhausted with the effort to lift the body, "come and bear a 
hand with this other one !" Porter advanced aghast, but just 
then another occurrence claimed the villain's attention, and 
poor Grimes's life was spared for that time. 

Rex, inwardly raging at this unexpected resistance on the 
part of the pilot, flung himself on the skylight, and tore it up 
bodily. As he did so, Barker, who had reloaded his musket, 



128 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



fired down into the cabin. The ball passed through the state- 
room door, and splintering the wood, buried itself close to the 
golden curls of poor little Sylvia. It was this hair's-breadth 
escape which drew from the agonized mother that shriek which, 
pealing through the open stern window, had roused the soldiers 
in the boat. 

Rex, who, by the virtue of his dandyism, yet possessed some 
abhorrence of useless crime, imagined that the cry was one of 
pain, and that Barker's bullet had taken deadly effect. " You've 
killed the child, you villain !" he cried. 

"What's the odds? "asked Barker sulkily. "She must die 
any way, sooner or later." 

Rex put his head down the skylight, and called on Bates to 
surrender ; but Bates only drew his other pistol. " Would you 
commit murder?" he asked, looking round with desperation in 
his glance. 

" No, no," cried some of the men, willing to blink the death 
of poor Jones. " It's no use making things worse than they 
are. Bid him come up, and we'll do him no harm." 

" Come up, Mr. Bates," says Rex, " and I give you my word 
you sha'n't be injured." 

"Will you set the major's lady and child ashore, then ? " asked 
Bates, sturdily facing the scowling brows above him. 
"Yes." 

" Without injury ? " continued the other, bargaining, as it were, 
at the very muzzles of the muskets. 

" Ay, ay ! It's all right ! " returned Russen. " It's our liberty 
we want, that's all." 

Bates, hoping against hope for the return of the boat, en- 
deavoured to gain time. " Shut down the skylight, then," said 
he, with the ghost of an authority in his voice, " until I ask the 
Lady." 

This, however, John Rex refused to do. " You can ask well 
enough where you are," he said. 

But there was no need for Mr. Bates to put a question. The 
door of the state-room opened, and Mrs. Vickers appeared, 
trembling, with Sylvia by her side. " Accept, Mr. Bates," she 
said, " since it must be so. We should gain nothing by refusing. 
We are at their mercy— God help us ! " 

"Amen to that," says Bates under his breath, and then aloud, 
" We agree ! " 



JOHN REX'S REVENGE. 129 

" Put your pistols on the table, and come up, then," says Rex, 
covering the table with his musket as he spoke. " Nobody shall 
hurt you." 



CHAPTER X. 

JOHN REX'S REVENGE. 



MRS. VICKERS, pale and sick with terror, yet sustained 
by that strange courage of which we have before 
spoken, passed rapidly under the open skylight, and 
prepared to ascend. Sylvia — her romance crushed by too 
dreadful reality — clung to her mother with one hand, and with 
the other pressed close to her little bosom the " English History." 
In her all-absorbing fear she had forgotten to lay it down. 

" Get a shawl, ma'am, or something," says Bates, "and a hat 
for Missy.'' 

Mrs. Vickers looked back across the space beneath the open 
skylight, and shuddering, shook her head. The men above 
impatiently swore at the delay, and the three hastened on 
deck. 

"Who's to' command the brig now?" asked undaunted Bates, 
as they came up. 

" I am," says John Rex ; " and, with these brave fellows, Pll 
take her round the world." 

The touch of bombast was not out of place. It jumped so 
far with the humour of the convicts that they set up a feeble 
cheer, at which Sylvia frowned. Frightened as she was, the 
prison-bred child was as much astonished at hearing convicts 
cheer as a fashionable lady would be to hear her footman quote 
poetry. Bates, however ' k quite another 

view of the case. Hie bold p 1 boldly avowed, seemed 

to him a sheer absurdity. The " Dandy" and a crew of nine 
convicts navigate a brig round the world ! Preposterous ; why, 
not a man aboard could work a reckoning ! His nautical fancy 
pictured the Osprey helplessly rolling on the swell of the Southern 
Ocean, or hopelessly locked in the ice of the Antarctic Seas, 
and he dimly guessed at the fate of the deluded ten. Even if 
they got safe to port, the chances of final escape were all against 

q 



HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



them, for what account could they give of themselves ? Over- 
powered by these reflections, the honest fellow made one last 
effort to charm his captors back to their pristine bondage. 

" Fools !" he cried, " do you know what you are about to do ? 
You will never escape. Give up the brig, and I will declare, 
before my God, upon the Bible, that I will say nothing, but give 
all good characters." 

Lesly and another burst into a laugh at this wild proposition, 
but Rex, who had weighed his chances well beforehand, felt the 
force of the pilot's speech, and answered seriously. 

" It's no use talking," he said, shaking his still handsome head. 
" We have got the brig, and we mean to keep her. I can navi- 
gate her, though I am no seaman, so you needn't talk further 
about it, Mr. Bates. It's liberty we require." 

" What are you going to do with us ?" asked Bates. 

" Leave you behind." 

Bates's face blanched. " What, here?"" 

" Yes. It don't look a picturesque spot, does it ? And yet 
I've lived here for some years ;" and he grinned. 

Bates was silent. The logic of that grin was unanswerable. 

" Come ! " cried the Dandy, shaking off his momentary 
melancholy, " look alive there ! Lower away the jolly-boat. 
Mrs. Vickers, go down to your cabin and get anything you 
want. I am compelled to put you ashore, but I have no wish 
to leave you without clothes." Bates listened, in a sort of 
dismal admiration, at this courtly convict. He could not have 
spoken like that had life depended on it. " Now, my little 
lady," continued Rex, " run down with your mamma, and 
don't be frightened." 

Sylvia flashed burning red at this indignity. "Frightened! 
If there had been anybody else here but women, you never 
would have taken the brig. Frightened ! Let me pass, 
prisoner /" 

The whole deck burst into a great laugh at this, and poor 
Mrs. Vickers paused, trembling for the consequences of the 
child's temerity. To thus taunt the desperate convict who held 
their lives in his hands seemed sheer madness. In the boldness 
of the speech, however, lay its safeguard. Rex — whose politeness 
was mere bravado — was stung to the quick by the reflection 
upon his courage, and the bitter accent with which the child had 
pronounced the word prisoner (the generic name of convicts) 



JOHN REX'S REVENGE. 131 

made him bite his lips with rage. Had he had his will, be 
would have struck the little creature to the deck, but the hoarse 
laugh of his companions warned him to forbear. There is 
" public opinion" even among convicts, and Rex dared not vent 
his passion on so helpless an object. As men do in such cases, 
he veiled his anger beneath an affectation of amusement. In 
order to show that he was not moved by the taunt, he smiled 
upon the taunter more graciously than ever. 

"Your daughter hasher father's spirit, madam," said he to 
Mrs. Vickers, with a bow. 

Bates opened his mouth to listen. His ears were not large 
enough to take in the words of this complimentary convict. He 
began to think that he was the victim of a nightmare. He 
absolutely felt that John Rex was a greater man at that moment 
than John Bates. 

As Mi's. Vickers descended the hatchway, the boat with Frcre 
and the soldiers came within musket range, and Lesly, ac- 
cording to orders, fired his musket over their heads, shouting 
to them to lay to. But Frere, boiling with rage at the manner 
in which the tables had been turned on him, had determined 
not to resign his lost authority without a struggle. Disregarding 
the summons, he came straight on, with his eyes fixed on the 
vessel. It was now nearly dark, and the figures on the deck were 
indistinguishable. The indignant lieutenant could but guess at 
the condition of affairs. Suddenly, from out of the darkness a 
voice hailed him — 

" Hold water ! back water ! " it cried, and was then seemingly 
choked in its owner's throat. 

The voice was the property of Mr. Bates. Standing near the 
side, he had observed Rex and Fair bring up a great pig of iron, 
erst used as part of the ballast of the brig, and poise it on the 
rail. Their intention was but too evident ; and honest Bates, 
like a faithful watch-dog, barked to warn his master. Blood- 
thirsty Cheshire caught him by the throat, and Frere, unheeding, 
ran the boat alongside, under the very nose of the revengeful 
Rex. 

The mass of iron fell half in-board upon the now stayed boat, 
and gave her sternway, with a splintered plank. 
"Villains ! '' cried Frcre, "would you swamp us?" 
"Aye," laughed Rex, "and a dozen such as ye! The brig's 
ours, can't ye see, and we're your masters now ! " 



HIS NATURAL LIFE 



Frere, stifling an exclamation of rage, cried to the bow to 
hook on, but the blow had driven the boat backward, and she 
was already beyond arm's length of the brig. Looking up, he 
saw Cheshire's savage face, and heard the click of the lock as he 
cocked his piece. The two soldiers, exhausted by their long 
pull, made no effort to stay the progress of the boat, and almost 
before the swell caused by the plunge of the mass of iron had 
ceased to agitate the water, the deck of the Osftrey had become 
invisible in the darkness. 

Frere struck his fist upon the thwart in sheer impotence of 
rage. " The scoundrels !" he said, between his teeth, "they've 
mastered us. What do they mean to do next?" 

The answer came pat to the question. From the dark hull of 
the brig broke a flash and a report, and a musket ball cut the 
water beside them with a chirping noise. Between the black 
indistinct mass which represented the brig, and the glimmering 
water, was visible a white speck, which gradually neared them. 

"Come alongside with ye!" hailed a voice, "or it will be 
worse for ye ! " 

" They want to murder us," says Frere. " Give way, men ! " 

But the two soldiers, exchanging glances one with the other, 
pulled the boat's head round, and made for the vessel. " It's no 
use, Mr. Frere," said the man nearest him, " we can do no good 
now, and they won't hurt us, I dare say." 

" You dogs, you are in league with them," bursts out Frere, 
purple with indignation. " Do you mutiny ? " 

" Come, come, sir," returned the soldier, sulkily, " this ain't 
the time to bully ; and, as for mutiny, why, one man's about as 
good as another just now." 

This speech from the lips of a man who, but a few minutes 
before, would have risked his life to obey the orders of his officer, 
did more than an hour's reasoning to convince Maurice Frere of 
the hopelessness of resistance. His authority — born of circum- 
stance, and supported by adventitious aid — had left him. The 
musket shot had reduced him to the ranks. He was now no 
more than any one else ; indeed, he was less than many, for 
those who held the firearms were the ruling powers. With a 
groan he resigned himself to his fate, and looking at the sleeve 
of the undress uniform he wore, it seemed to him that virtue 
had gone out of it. 

When they reached the brig, they found that the jolly-boat 



JOHN REX'S REVENGE. 133 



had been lowered and laid alongside. In her were eleven 
persons : Bates, with forehead gashed, and hands bound, the 
stunned Grimes, Russen and Fairpulling, Lyon, Riley, Cheshire, 
and Lesly with muskets, and John Rex in the stern sheets, with 
Bates's pistols in his trousers' belt, and a loaded musket across 
his knees. The white object which had been seen by the men 
in the whale-boat was a large white shawl which wrapped 
Mrs. Vickers and Sylvia. 

Frere muttered an oath of relief when he sawthis white bundle. 
He had feared that the child was injured. By the direction of 
Rex, the whale-boat was brought alongside the jolly-boat, and 
Cheshire and Lesly boarded her. Lesly then gave his musket 
to Rex, and bound Frere's hands behind him, in the same 
manner as had been done for Bates. Frere attempted to resist 
this indignity, but Cheshire, clapping his musket to his ear, 
swore he would blow out his brains if he uttered another syllable ; 
and Frere, catchingthe malignant eye of John Rex, remembered 
how easily a twitch of the finger would pay off old scores, and 
was silent. " Step in here, sir, if you please," said Rex, with 
polite irony. " I am sorry to be compelled to tie you, but I must 
consult my own safety as well as your convenience." Frere 
scowled, and, stepping awkwardly into the jolly-boat, fell. 
Pinioned as he was, he could not rise without assistance, and 
Russen pulled him roughly to his feet, with a coarse laugh. In 
his present frame of mind, that laugh galled him worse than his 
bonds. 

Poor Mrs. Vickers, with a woman's quick instinct, sawthis, 
and, even amid her own trouble, foundleisuretoconsole. " The 
wretches ! " she said, under her breath, as Frere was flung down 
beside her, " to subject you to such indignity ! " Sylvia said 
nothing, and seemed to shrink from the lieutenant. Perhaps in 
herchildish fancy, she had pictured him as coming to her rescue, 
armed cap-a-pie, and clad in dazzling mail, or, at the very least, 
as a muscular hero, who should settle affairs out of hand by 
sheer personal prowess. If she had entertained any such notion, 
the reality must have struck coldly upon her senses. Mr. Frere, 
purple, clumsy, and bound, was not at all heroic. 

" Now, my lads," says Rex — who seemed to have endued the 
cast-off authority of Frere — " we give you your choice. Stay at 
Hell's Gates, or come with us ! " 

The soldiers paused, irresolute. To join the mutineers 



134 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

meant a certainty of hard work, with a chance of ultimate 
hanging. Yet to stay with the prisoners was — as far as they 
could see — to incur the inevitable fate of starvation on a barren 
coast As is often the case on such occasions, a trifle sufficed 
to turn the scale. The wounded Grimes, who was slowly re- 
covering from his stupor, dimly caught the meaning of the. 
sentence, and in his obfuscated condition of intellect, must needs 
make comment upon it. " Go with him, ye beggars ! " said he, 
"and leave us honest men ! Oh, ye'll get a tying-up for this ! " 

The phrase "tying-up" brought with it recollection of the 
worst portion of military discipline, the cat, and revived in the 
minds of the pair already disposed to break the yoke that sat so 
heavily upon them, a train of dismal memories. The life of a 
soldier on a convict station was at that time a hard one. He 
was often stinted in rations, and of necessity deprived of all 
rational recreation, while punishment for offences was prompt 
and severe. The companies drafted to the penal settlements 
were not composed of the best material, and the pair had good 
precedent for the course they were about to take. 

" Come," says Rex, " I can't wait here all night. The wind is 
freshening, and we must make the Bar. Which is it to be ?" 

" We'll go with you ! " says the man who had pulled the 
stroke in the whale-boat, spitting into the water with averted 
face. Upon which utterance the convicts burst into joyous 
oaths, and the pair were received with much hand-shaking. 

Then Rex, with Lyon and Riley as a guard, got into the 
whale-boat, and having loosed the two prisoners from their 
bonds, ordered them to take the places of Russen and Fair. 
The whale-boat was manned by the seven mutineers, Rex steer- 
ing, Fair, Russen, and the two recruits pulling, and the other 
four standing up, with their muskets levelled at the jolly-boat. 
Their long slavery had begotten such a dread of authority in 
these men, that they feared it even when it was bound and 
menaced by four muskets. "Keep your distance!" shouted 
Cheshire, as Frere and Bates, in obedience to orders, began to 
pull the jolly-boat towards the shore ; and in this fashion was 
the dismal little party conveyed to the mainland. 

It was night when they reached it, but the clear sky began to 
thrill with a late moon as yet unarisen, and the waves, breaking 
gently upon the beach, glimmered with a radiance born of their 
own motion. Frere and Bates, jumping ashore, helped out Mrs. 



LEFT AT ll HELL'S GATES." 135 

Vickcrs, Sylvia, and the wounded Grimes. This being done 
under the muzzles of the muskets, Rex commanded that Bates 
and Frere should push the jolly-boat as far as they could from 
the shore, and Riley catching her by a boot-hook as she came 
towards them, she was taken in tow. 

"Now, boys," says Cheshire, with a savage delight, "three 
cheers for old England and Liberty !" 

Upon which a great shout went up, echoed by the grim hills 
which had witnessed so many miseries. 

To the wretched five, this exultant mirth sounded like a knell 
of death. " Great God ! " cried Bates, running up to his knees 
in water after the departing boats, " would you leave us here to 
starve ? " 

The only answer was the jerk and dip of the retreating oars. 



CHAPTER XI. 

LEFT AT " HELL'S GATES." 



THERE is no need to dwell upon the mental agonies of 
that miserable night. Perhaps, of all the five, the one least 
qualified to endure it realized the prospect of suffering most 
acutely. Mrs. Vickers— lay-figure and noodle as she was — had 
the keen instinct of approaching danger, which is in her sex a 
sixth sense. She was a woman and a mother, and owned to a 
double capacity for suffering. Her feminine imagination pic- 
tured all the horrors of death by famine, and having realized 
her own torments, her maternal love forced her to live them 
over again in the person of her child. Rejecting Bates's offer of 
a pea-jacket and Frere's vague tenders of assistance, the poor 
woman withdrew behind a rock that faced the sea, and, with 
her daughter in her arms, resigned herself to her torturing 
thoughts. Sylvia, recovered from her terror, was almost con- 
tent, and, curled in her mother's shawl, slept. To her little soul, 
this midnight mystery of boats and muskets had all the flavour 
of a romance. With Bates, Frere, and her mother so close to 
her, it was impossible to be afraid ; besides, it was obvious that 
Papa — the Supreme Being of the settlement — must at once 
return and severely punish the impertinent prisoners who had 



136 II 7 S NATURAL LIFE. 

dared to insult his wife and child, and as Sylvia dropped off to 
sleep, she caught herself, with some indignation, pitying the 
mutineers for the tremendous scrape they had got themselves 
into. How they would be flogged when Papa came back ! In 
the mean time this sleeping in the open air was rather pleasant. 

Honest Bates produced a piece of biscuit, and, with all the 
generosity of his nature, suggested that this should be set aside 
for the sole use of the two females, but Mrs. Vickers would not 
hear of it. " We must all share alike," said she, with something 
of the spirit that she knew her husband would have displayed 
under like circumstance ; and Frere wondered at her apparent 
strength of mind. Had he been gifted with more acuteness, he 
would not have wondered ; for when a crisis comes to one of 
two persons who have lived much together, the influence of the 
nobler spirit makes itself felt. Frere had a tinder-box in his 
pocket, and he made a fire with some dry leaves and sticks. 
Grimes fell asleep, and the two men sitting at their fire dis- 
cussed the chances of escape. Neither liked to openly broach 
the supposition that they were finally deserted. It was con- 
cluded between them that, unless the brig sailed in the night — 
and the now risen moon showed her yet lying at anchor — the 
convicts would return and bring them food. This supposition 
proved correct, for about an hour after daylight they saw the 
whale-boat pulling towards them. 

A discussion had arisen amongst the mutineers as to the pro- 
priety of at once making sail, but Barker, who had been one of 
the pilot-boat crew, and knew the dangers of the Bar, vowed 
that he would not undertake to steer the brig through the Gates 
until morning ; and so the boats being secured astern, a strict 
watch was set, lest the helpless Bates should attempt to rescue 
the vessel. During the evening — the excitement attendant upon 
the outbreak having passed away, and the magnitude of the 
task before them being more fully apparent to their minds — a 
feeling of pity for the unfortunate party on the mainland took 
possession of them. It was quite possible that the Osprey might 
De recaptured, in which case five useless murders would have 
been committed; and however callous to bloodshed were the 
majority of the ten, not one among them could contemplate in 
cold blood, without a twinge of remorse, the death of the harm- 
less child of the Commandant. John Rex, seeing how matters 
were going, made haste to take to himself the credit of mercy. 



LEFT AT "HELLS GATES." 137 

He ruled, and had always ruled, his ruffians not so much by 
suggesting to them the course they should take, as by leading 
them on the way they had already chosen for themselves. 

" I propose," said he, "that we divide the provisions. There 
are five of them and ten of us. Then nobody can blame us." 

"Ay," said Porter, mindful of a similar exploit, " and if we're 
taken, they can tell what we have done. Don't let our affair be 
like that of the Cypress, to leave them to starve.* - ' 

"Ay, ay," says Barker, "you're right ! When Fergusson was 
topped at Hobart Town, I heard old Troke say that if he'd not 
refused to set the tucker ashore, he might ha' got off with a 
whole skin." 

Thus urged, by self-interest, as well as sentiment, to mercy, 
the provision was got upon deck by daylight, and a division 
made. The soldiers, with generosity born of remorse, were for 
giving half to the marooned men, but Barker exclaimed against 
this. "When the schooner finds they don't get to head- 
quarters, she's bound to come back and look for 'em," said he ; 
"and we'll want all the tucker we can get, maybe, afore we 
sights land." 

This reasoning was admitted and acted upon. There was in 
the harness-cask about fifty pounds of salt meat, and a third of 
this quantity, together with half a small sack of (lour, some tea 
and sugar mixed together in a bag, and an iron kettle and pan- 
nikin, was placed in the whale-boat. Rex, fearful of excesses 
among his crew, had also lowered down one of the two small 
puncheons of rum which the store room contained. Cheshire 
disputed this, and stumbling over a goat that had been taken 
on board from Philip Island, caught the creature by the leg, and 
threw it into the sea, bidding Rex take that with him also. Rex 
dragged the poor beast into the boat, and with this miscellaneous 
cargo pushed off to the shore. The poor goat, shivering, began 
to bleat piteously, and the men laughed. To a stranger it would 
have appeared that the boat contained a happy party of fisher- 
men, or coast settlers, returning with the proceeds of a day's 
marketing. 

Laying off as the water shallowed, Rex called to Bates to 
come for the cargo, and three men with muskets standing up as 
before, ready to resist any attempt at capture, the provisions, 
goat and all, were carried ashore. "There!" says Rex, "you 
can't say we've used you badly, for we've divided the provisions." 



133 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

The sight of this almost unexpected succour revived the courage 
of the five, and they felt grateful. After the horrible anxiety 
they had endured all that night, they were prepared to look 
with kindly eyes upon the men who had come to their assist- 
ance. 

" Men," said Bates, with something like a sob in his voice, " I 
didn't expect this. You are good fellows, for there ain't much 
tucker aboard, I know." 

" Yes," affirmed Frere, " you're good fellows." 

Rex burst into a savage laugh. " Shut your mouth, you tyrant," 
said he, forgetting his Dandyism in the recollection of his former 
suffering. "It ain't for your benefit. You may thank the lady 
and child for it." 

Julia Vickers hastened to propitiate the arbiter of her daugh- 
ter's fate. " We are obliged to you," she said, with a touch of 
quiet dignity resembling her husband's ; "and if I ever get back 
safely, I will take care that your kindness shall be known." 

The swindler and forger took off his leather cap with quite an 
air. It was five years since a lady had spoken to him, and the 
old time when he was Mr. Lionel Crofton, a " gentleman sports- 
man," came back again for an instant. At that moment, with 
liberty in his hand, and fortune all before him, he felt his self- 
respect return, and he looked the lady in .the face without 
flinching. 

"I sincerely trust, madam," said he, "that you will get back 
safely. May I hope for your good wishes for myself and my 
companions?" 

Listening, Bates burst into a roar of astonished enthusiasm. 
" What a dog it is !" he cried. "John Rex, John Rex, you were 
never made to be a convict, man ! " 

Rex smiled. " Good-bye, Mr. Bates, and God preserve 
you ! " 

"Good-bye," says Bates, rubbing his hat off his face, "and 
I — I — damme, I hope you'll get safe off — there ! — for liberty's 
sweet to every man." 

"Good-bye, prisoners !" says Sylvia, waving her handkerchief; 
"and I hope they won't catch you, too." 

So, with cheers and waving of handkerchiefs, the boat de- 
parted. 

In the emotion which the apparently disinterested conduct of 
John Rex had occasioned the exiles, all earnest thought of their 



LEFT AT "HELL'S GATES." 139 

own position had vanished, and, strange to say, the prevailing 
feeling was that of anxiety for the ultimate fate of the mutineers 
But as the boat grew smaller and smaller in the distance, so did 
their consciousness of their own situation grow more and more 
distinct ; and when at last the boat had disappeared in the 
shadow of the brig, all started, as if from a dream, to the wake- 
ful contemplation of their own case. 

A council of war was held, with Mr. Frere at the head of it, 
and the possessions of the little party were thrown into common 
stock. The salt meat, flour, and tea were placed in a hollow 
rock at some distance from the beach, and Mr. Bates was 
appointed purser, to apportion to each, without fear or favour, 
his stated allowance. The goat was tethered with a piece of 
fishing line sufficiently long to allow her to browse. The cask 
of rum, by special agreement, was placed in the innermost 
recess of the rock, and it was resolved that its contents should 
not be touched except in case of sickness, or in last extremity. 
There was no lack of water, for a spring ran bubbling from the 
rocks within a hundred yards of the spot where the party had 
landed. They calculated that, with prudence, their provision 
would last them for nearly four weeks. 

It was found, upon a review of their possessions, that they 
had among them three pocket knives, a ball of string, two pipes 
and a fig of tobacco, a portion of fishing line, with hooks, and a 
big jack-knife which Frcrc had taken to gut the fish he had 
1 ected to catch. But they saw with dismay that there was 
nothing which could be used axe-wise among the party. Mrs. 
Vickers had her shawl, and Bates a pea-jacket, but Frere and 
Grimes were without extra clothing. It was agreed that each 
should retain his own property, with the exception of the fishing 
lines, which were confiscated to the commonwealth. 

Having made these arrangements, the kettle, filled with water 
from the spring, was slung from three green sticks over the fire, 
and a pannikin of weak tea, together with a biscuit, served out 
to each of the party, save Grimes, who declared himself unable 
to eat. Breakfast over, Bates made a damper, which was 
cooked in the ashes, and then another council was held as to 
future habitation. 

It was clearly evident that they could not sleep in the open 
air. It was the middle of summer, and though no annoyance 
from rain was apprehended, the heat in the middle of the day 



140 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

was most oppressive. Moreover, it was absolutely necessary 
that Mrs. Vickers and the child should have some place to 
themselves. At a little distance from the beach was a sandy 
rise, that led up to the face of the cliff, and on the eastern side 
of this rise grew a forest of young trees. Frere proposed to cut 
down these trees, and make a sort of hut with them. It was 
soon discovgred, however, that the pocket knives were insuffi- 
cient for this purpose, but by dint of notching the young saplings 
and then breaking them down, they succeeded, in a couple of 
hours, in collecting wood enough to roof over a space between 
the hollow rock which contained the provisions and another 
rock, in shape like a hammer, which jutted out within five yards 
of it. Mrs. Vickers and Sylvia were to have this hut as a sleep- 
ing place, and Frere and Bates, lying at the mouth of the 
larder, would at once act as a guard to it and them. Grimes 
was to make for himself another hut where the fire had been 
lighted on the previous night. 

" When they got back to dinner, inspirited by this resolution, 
they found poor Mrs. Vickers in great alarm. Grimes, who, by 
reason of the dint in his skull, had been left behind, was walk- 
ing about the sea-beach, talking mysteriously, and shaking his 
fist at an imaginary foe. On going up to him, they discovered 
that the blow had affected his brain, for he was delirious. 
Frere endeavoured to soothe him, without effect ; and at last, 
by Bates's advice, the poor fellow was rolled in the sea. The 
cold bath quelled his violence, and, being laid beneath the shade 
of a rock hard by, he fell into a condition of great muscular 
exhaustion, and slept. 

The damper was then portioned out by Bates, and, together 
with a small piece of meat, it formed the dinner of the party. 
Mrs. Vickers reported that she had observed a great commo- 
tion on board the brig, and thought that the prisoners were 
throwing overboard such portions of the cargo as were not 
absolutely necessary to them, in order to lighten her. This 
notion Bates declared to be correct, and further pointed out 
that the mutineers had got out a kedge-anchor, and by hauling 
on the kedge-line, were gradually warping the brig down the 
• harbour. Before dinner was over a light breeze sprang up, and 
the Osprey, running up the union-jack reversed, fired a musket, 
either in farewell or triumph, and spreading her sails, disap- 
peared round the western horn of the harbour. 



LEFT AT "HELL'S GATES. 1 ' 141 



Mrs. Vickers, taking Sylvia with her, went away a few paces, 
and leaning against the nigged wall of her future home, wept 
bitterly. Bates and Frere affected cheerfulness, but each felt 
that he had hitherto regarded the presence of the brig as a sort 
of safeguard, and had never fully realized his own loneliness 
until now. 

The necessity for work, however, admitted of no indulgence 
of vain sorrow, and Bates setting the example, the pair worked 
so hard that by nightfall they had torn down and dragged to- 
gether sufficient brushwood to complete Mrs. Vickers's hut. 
During the progress of this work they were often interrupted by 
Grimes, who persisted in vague rushes at them, exclaiming 
loudly against their supposed treachery in leaving him at the 
mercy of the mutineers. Bates also complained of the pain 
caused by the wound in his forehead, and that he was afflicted 
with a giddiness which he knew not how to avert. By dint of 
frequently bathing his head at the spring, however, he succeeded 
in keeping on his legs, until the work of dragging together the 
boughs was completed, when he threw himself on the ground, 
and declared that he could rise no more. 

Frere applied to him the remedy that had been so success- 
fully tried upon Grimes, but the salt water inflamed his wound 
and rendered his condition worse. Mrs. Vickers recommended 
that a little spirit and water should be used to wash the cut, 
and the cask was got out and broached for that purpose. Tea 
and damper formed their evening meal ; and by the light of a 
blazing lire, their condition looked less desperate. Mrs. Vickers 
had set the pannikin on a flat stone, and dispensed the tea with 
an affectation of dignity which would have been absurd, had it 
not been heart-rending. She had smoothed her hair and pinned 
the white shawl about her coqucttishly ; she even ventured to 
lament to Mr. Frere that she had not brought more clothes 
Sylvia was in high spirits, and scorned to confess hunger. 
When the tea had been drunk, she fetched water from the 
spring in the kettle, and bathed Bates's head with it. It was 
resolved that, on the morrow, a search should be made for some 
place from which to cast the fishing-line, and that one of the 
number should fish daily. 

The condition of the unfortunate Grimes now gave cause for 
the greatest uneasiness. From maundering foolishly, he had 
taken to absolute violence, and had to be watched by Frere. 



142 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

After much muttering and groaning, the poor fellow at last 
dropped off to sleep, and Frere, having assisted Bates to his 
sleeping place in front of the rock, and laid him down on a heap 
of green brushwood, prepared to snatch a few hours' slumber. 
Wearied by excitement and the labours of the day, he slept 
heavily, but, towards morning, was awakened by a strange 
noise. 

Grimes, whose delirium had apparently increased, had suc- 
ceeded in forcing his way through the rude fence of brushwood, 
and had thrown himself upon Bates with the ferocity of insanity. 
Growling to himself, he had seized the unfortunate pilot by the 
throat, and the pair were struggling together. Bates, weakened 
by the sickness that had followed upon his wound in the head, 
was quite unable to cope with his desperate assailant, but call- 
ing feebly upon Frere for help, had made shift to lay hold upon 
the jack-knife of which we have before spoken. Frere, starting 
to his feet, rushed to the assistance of the pilot, but was too 
late. Grimes, enraged by the sight of the knife, tore it from 
Bates's grasp, and before Frere could catch his arm, plunged it 
twice into the unfortunate man's breast. 

" I'm a dead man ! " cried Bates faintly. 

The sight of the blood, together with the exclamation of his 
victim, recalled Grimes to consciousness. He looked in bewil- 
derment at the bloody weapon, and then flinging it from him, 
rushed away towards the sea, into which he plunged headlong. 

Frere, aghast at this sudden and terrible tragedy, gazed after 
him, and saw from out the placid water, sparkling in the bright 
beams of morning, a pair of arms, with outstretched hands, 
emerge ; a black spot, that was a head, uprose between these 
stiffening amis, and then, with a horrible cry, the whole disap- 
peared, and the bright water sparkled as placidly as before. 
The eyes of the terrified Frere travelling back to the wounded 
man, saw, midway between this sparkling water and the knife 
that lay on the sand, an object that went far to explain the 
maniac's sudden burst of fury. The rum cask lay upon its side 
by the remnants of last night's fire, and close to it was a clout, 
with which the head of the wounded man had been bound. It 
was evident that the poor creature, wandering in his delirium, 
had come across the rum cask, drank a quantity of its contents, 
and been maddened by the fiery spirit. 

Frere hurried to the side of Bates, and lifting him up, strove 



LEFT AT "HELLS GATES? 143 

to staunch the blood that flowed from his chest. It would seem 
that he had been resting himself on his left elbow, and that 
Grimes, snatching the knife from his right hand, had stabbed 
him twice in the right breast. He was pale and senseless, and 
Frere feared that the wound was mortal. Tearing off his neck- 
handkerchief, he endeavoured to bandage the wound, but found 
that the strip of silk was insufficient for the purpose. The noise 
had roused Mrs. Vickers, who, stifling her terror, made haste to 
tear off a portion of her dress, and with this a bandage of 
sufficient width was made. Frere went to the cask to see if, 
haply, he could obtain from it a little spirit with which to moisten 
the lips of the dying man, but it was empty. Grimes, after 
drinking his fill, had overturned the unheaded puncheon, and 
the greedy sand had absorbed every drop of liquor. Sylvia 
brought some water from the spring, and Mrs. Vickers bathing 
Bates's head with this, he revived a little. By-and-by Mrs. 
Vickers milked the goat — she had never done such a thing before 
in all her life — and the milk being given to Bates in a pannikin, 
he drank it eagerly, but vomited it almost instantly. It was 
evident that he was sinking from some internal injury. 

None of the party had much appetite for breakfast, but Frere, 
whose sensibilities were less acute than those of the others, ate 
a piece of salt meat and damper. It struck him, with a curious 
feeling of pleasant selfishness, that now Grimes had gone, the 
allowance of provisions would be increased, and that if Bates 
went also, it would be increased still further. He did not give 
utterance to his thoughts, however, but sat with the wounded 
man's head on his knees, and brushed the settling flies from his 
face. He hoped, after all, that the pilot would not die, for he 
should then be left alone to look after the women. Perhaps 
some such thought was agitating Mrs. Vickers also. As for 
Sylvia, she made no secret of her anxiety. 

" Don't die, Mr. Bates — oh, don't die ! " she said, standing 
piteously near, but afraid to touch him. " Don't leave mamma 
and me alone in this dreadful place ! " 

Toor Bates of course said nothing, but Frere frowned heavily, 
and Mrs. Vickers said, reprovingly, "Sylvia!" just as if they 
had been in the old house on distant Sarah Island. 

In the afternoon Frere went away to drag together some wood 
for the lire, and when he returned, he found the pilot near his 
end. Mrs. Vickers said that for an hour he had lain without 



144 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

motion, and almost without breath. The major's wife had seen 
more than one death-bed, and was calm enough ; but poor little 
Sylvia, sitting on a stone hard by, shook with terror. She had 
a dim notion that death must be accompanied by violence. As 
the sun sank, Bates rallied ; but the two watchers knew that it 
was but the final flicker of the expiring candle. " He's going ! " 
said Frere at length, under his breath, as though fearful of 
awaking his half-slumbering soul. Mrs. Vickers, her eyes 
streaming with silent tears, lifted the honest head, and moistened 
the parched lips with her soaked handkerchief. A tremor shook 
the once stalwart limbs, and the dying man opened his eyes. 
For an instant he seemed bewildered, and then, looking from 
one to the other, intelligence returned to his glance, and it was 
evident that he remembered all. His gaze rested upon the pale 
face of the affrighted Sylvia, and then turned to Frere. There- 
could be no mistaking the mute appeal of those eloquent eyes. 

" Yes, I'll take care of her," said Frere. 

Bates smiled, and then observing that the blood from his 
wound had stained the white shawl of Mrs. Vickers, he made an 
effort to move his head. It was not fitting that a lady's shawl 
should be stained with the blood of a poor fellow like himself. 
The fashionable fribble, with quick instinct, understood the 
gesture, and gently drew the head back upon her bosom. In 
the presence of death the woman was womanly. For a moment 
all was silent, and they thought he had gone ; but all at once he 
opened his eyes, and looked round for the sea. 

" Turn my face to it once more," he whispered : and as they 
raised him, he inclined his ear to listen. " It's calm enough 
here, God bless it," he said; "but I can hear the waves 
a-breaking hard upon the Bar ! " 

And so his head drooped, and he died. 

As Frere relieved Mrs. Vickers from the weight of the corps?, 
Sylvia ran to her mother. " Oh, mamma, mamma," she crieu, 
" why did God let him die when we wanted him so much ?" 

Before it grew dark, Frere made shift to cany the body to the 
shelter of some rocks at a little distance, and spreading the 
jacket over the face, he piled stones upon it to keep it steady. 
The march of events had been so rapid, that he scarcely realized 
that since the previous evening two of the five human creatures 
left in this wilderness had escaped from it. As he did realize it, 
he began to wonder whose turn it would be next. 



LEFT AT "HELLS GATES? 145 

Mrs. Vickers, worn out by the fatigue and excitement of the 
day, retired to rest early ; and Sylvia, refusing to speak to Frere, 
followed her mother. This manifestation of unaccountable 
dislike on the part of the child hurt Maurice more than he cared 
to own . He felt angry with her for not loving him, and yet he took 
no pains to conciliate her. It was with a curious pleasure that 
he remembered how she must soon look up to him as her chief 
protector. Had Sylvia been a few years older, the young man 
would have thought himself in love with her. 

The following day passed gloomily. It was hot and sultry, 
and a dull haze hung over the mountains. Frere spent the 
morning in scooping a grave in the sand, in which to inter poor 
Bates. Practically awake to his own necessities, he removed 
such portions of clothing from the body as would be useful to 
him, but hid them under a stone, not liking to let Mrs. Vickers 
see what he had done. Having completed the grave by mid- 
day, he placed the corpse therein, and rolled as many stones as 
possible to the sides of the mound. In the afternoon he cast 
the fishing-line from the point of a rock he had marked the day 
before, but caught nothing. Passing by the grave, on his 
return, he noticed that Mrs. Vickers had placed at the head 
of it a rude cross, formed by tying two pieces of stick together. 

After supper — the usual salt meat and clamper — he lit an 
economical pipe, and tried to talk to Sylvia. " Why won't you 
be friends with me, Missy ? " he asked. 

" I don't like you," said Sylvia. " You frighten me." 

« Why ? " 

" You are not kind. I don't mean that you do cruel things 
but you are — oh, I wish Papa was here ! " 

" Wishing won't bring him ! " says Frere, pressing his hoarded 
tobacco together with prudent forefinger. 

"There! That's what I mean! Is that kind? 'Wishing 
won't bring him ! ' Oh, if it only would ! " 

" I didn't mean it unkindly," says Frere. " What a strange 
child you are." 

"There are persons," says Sylvia, "who have no Affinity for 
each other. I read about it in a book Papa had, and I suppose 
that's what it is. I have no Affinity for you. f can't help it, 
can I ? " 

" Rubbish ! " Frere returned. " Come here, and I'll tell you a 
story." 

10 



i 4 5 BIS NATURAL LIFE. 

Mrs. Vickers had gone back to her cave, and the two were 
alone by the fire, near which stood the kettle and the newly- 
made damper. The child, with some show of hesitation, came 
to him, and he caught and placed her on his knee. The moon 
had not yet risen, and the shadows cast by the flickering fire 
seemed weird and monstrous. The wicked wish to frighten 
this helpless creature came to Maurice Frere. 

" There was once," said he, " a Castle in an old wood, and in 
this Castle there lived an Ogre, with great goggle eyes." 

"You silly man !" said Sylvia, struggling to be free. "You 
are trying to frighten me ! " 

" And this Ogre lived on the bones of little girls. One day a 
little girl was travelling the wood, and she heard the Ogre 
coming. ' Haw ! haw ! Haw ! haw ! '" 

" Mr. Frere, let me down ! " 

" She was terribly frightened, and she ran, and ran, and ran } 
until all of a sudden she saw '' 

A piercing scream burst from his companion. " Oh ! oh ! 
What's that ? " she cried, and clung to her persecutor. 

On the other side of the fire stood the figure of a man. He 
staggered forward, and then, falling on his knees, stretched out 
his hands, and hoarsely articulated one word — " Food." It was 
Rufus Dawes. 

The sound of a human voice broke the spell of terror that was 
on the child, and as the glow from the fire fell upon the tattered 
yellow garments, she guessed at once the whole story. Not so 
Maurice Frere. He saw before him a new danger, a new mouth 
to share the scanty provision, and snatching a brand from 
the fire he kept the convict at bay. But Rufus Dawes, glaring 
round with wolfish eyes, caught sight of the damper resting 
against the iron kettle, and made a clutch at it. Frere dashed 
the brand in his face. " Stand back !" he cried. "We have no 
food to spare ! " 

The convict uttered a savage cry, and raising the iron gad, 
plunged forward desperately to attack this new enemy : but, 
quick, as thought, the child glided past Frere, and snatching the 
loaf, placed it in the hands of the starving man, with " Here, 
poor prisoner, eat ! " and then, turning to Frere, she cast upon 
him a glance so full of horror, indignation, and surprise, that 
the man blushed and threw down the brand. 

As for Rufus Dawes, the sudden apparition of this golden- 



"MR." DAWES. 147 



haired girl seemed to have transformed him. Allowing the loaf 
to slip through his fingers, he gazed with haggard eyes at the 
retreating figure of the child, and as it vanished into the dark- 
ness outside the circle of firelight, the unhappy man sank his 
face upon his blackened, horny hands, and burst int,o tears. 



CHAPTER XII. 

"MR." DAWES. 



THE coarse tones of Maurice Frcre roused him. " What 
do you want ? " he asked. 
Rufus Dawes, raising his head, contemplated the figure 
before him, and recognized it. " Is it you ?" he said, slowly. 

"What do you mean? Do you know me?" asked Frere, 
drawing back. But the convict did not reply. His momen- 
tary emotion passed away, the pangs of hunger returned, and 
greedily seizing upon the piece of damper, he began to eat in 
silence. 

"Do you hear, man?" repeated Frere, at length. "What 
are you ? " 

"An escaped prisoner. You can give me up in the morning. 
I've done my best, and I'm beat." 

This sentence struck Frere with dismay. The man did not 
know that the settlement had been abandoned ! 

" I cannot give you up. There is no one but myself and a 
woman and child on the settlement." Rufus Dawes, pausing in 
his eating, stared at him in amazement. " The prisoners have 
gone away in the schooner. If you choose to remain free, you 
can do so as far as I am concerned. I am as helpless as you 
are." 

" But how do you come here ? " 

Frere laughed bitterly. To give explanations to convicts was 
foreign to his experience, and lie did not relish the task. In 
this case, however, there was no help for it. " The prisoners 
mutinied and seized the brig." 

"What brig?" 

" The Osprey." 

A terrible light broke upon Rufus Dawes, and he began to 



I 4 8 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

understand how he had again missed his chance. " Who took 
her ? " 

"That double-dyed villain, John Rex," says Frere, giving 
vent to his passion. " May she sink, and burn, and " 

" Have they gone, then ? " cried the miserable man, clutching 
at his hair with a gesture of hopeless rage. 

"Yes ; two days ago, and left us here to starve." 

Rufus Dawes burst into a laugh so discordant that it made 
the other shudder. " We'll starve together, Maurice Frere," 
said he ; " for while you've a crust, I'll share it. If I don't get 
liberty, at least I'll have revenge ! " 

The sinister aspect of this famished savage, sitting with his chin 
on his ragged knees, rocking himself to and fro in the light of the 
fire, gave Mr. Maurice Frere a new sensation. He felt as might 
have felt that African hunter who, returning to his camp fire, 
found a lion there. " Wretch ! " said he, shrinking from him, 
"why should you wish to be revenged on me?" 

The convict turned upon him with a snarl. " Take care what 
you say ! I'll have no hard words. Wretch ! If I am a wretch, 
who made me one ? If I hate you and myself and the world, 
who made me hate it? I was born free — as free as you are. 
Why should I be sent to herd with beasts, and condemned to 
this slavery, worse than death ? Tell me that, Maurice Frere — 
tell me that ! " 

" I didn't make the laws," says Frere ; " why do you attack me ? " 

" Because you are what I was. You are free ! You can do 
as you please. You can love, you can work, you can think. I 
can only hate!" He paused as if astonished at himself, and 
then continued, with a low laugh, " Fine words for a convict, 
eh ! But, never mind, it's all right, Mr. Frere ; we're equal now, 
and I sha'n't die an hour sooner than you, though you are a ' free 
man ' ! " 

Frere began to think that he was dealing with another mad- 
man. " Die ! There's no need to talk of dying," he said, as 
soothingly as it was possible for him to say it. " Time enough 
for that by-and by." 

"There spoke the/ra? man. We convicts have an advantage 
over you gentlemen. You are afraid of death ; we pray for it. 
It is the best thing that can happen to us — Die ! They were 
going to hang me once. I wish they had. My God, I wish 
they had!" 



"MR." DAWES. 149 



There was such a depth of agony in this terrible utterance 
that Maurice Frere was appalled at it. "There, go and sleep, 
my man," he said. "You are knocked up. We'll talk in the 
morning." 

" Hold on a bit ! " cried Rufus Dawes, with a coarseness of 
manner altogether foreign to that he had just assumed. " Who's 
with ye ? " 

" The wife and daughter of the Commandant," replied Frere, 
half afraid to refuse an answer to a question so fiercely put. 

" No one else?" 

"No." 

" Poor souls ! " said the convict, " I pity them." And then 
he stretched himself, like a dog, before the blaze, and went to 
sleep instantly. 

Maurice Frere, looking at the gaunt figure of this addition to 
the party, was completely puzzled how to act. Such a character 
had never before come within the range of his experience. He 
knew not what to make of the fierce, ragged, desperate man, 
who wept and threatened by turns — who was now snarling in 
the most repulsive bass of the convict gamut, and now calling 
upon heaven in tones which were little less than eloquent. At 
first he thought of precipitating himself upon the sleeping wretch 
and pinioning him, but a second glance at the sinewy, though 
wasted, limbs forbade him to follow out the rash suggestion of 
his own fears. Then a horrible prompting — arising out of this 
former cowardice — made him feel for the jack-knife with which 
one murder had already been committed. The stock of pro- 
visions was so scanty, and, after all, the lives of the woman and 
child were worth more than that of this unknown desperado 1 
But, to do him justice, the thought no sooner shaped itself than 
he crushed it out. "We'll wait till morning, and see how he 
shapes," said Frere to himself ; and pausing at the brushwood 
barricade, behind which the mother and daughter were clinging 
to each other, he whispered that he was on guard outside, and 
that the absconder slept. But when morning dawned, he found 
that there was no need for alarm. The convict was lying in 
almost the same position as that in which he had left him, and 
his eyes were closed. His threatening outbreak of the previous 
night had been produced by the excitement of his sudden rescue, 
and he was now incapable of violence. Frere advanced, and 
shook him by the shoulder. 



ISO HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

" Not alive ! " cried the poor wretch, waking with a start; and 
raising his arm to strike. " Keep off ! " 

" It's all right," said Frere. " No one is going to harm you, 
Wake up." 

Rufus Dawes glanced around him stupidly, and then remem- 
bering what had happened, with a great effort, he staggered to 
his feet. " I thought they'd got me ! " he said ; " but it's the 
other way, I see. Come, let's have breakfast, Mr. Frere. I'm 
hungry." 

" You must wait," said Frere. " Do you think there is no 
one here but yourself?" 

Rufus Dawes, swaying to and fro from weakness, passed his 
shred of a cuff over his eyes. " I don't know anything about 
it. I only know I'm hungry." 

Frere stopped short. Now or never was the time to settle 
future relations. Lying awake in the night, with the jack-knife 
ready to his hand, he had decided on the course of action that 
must be adopted. The convict should share with the rest, but 
no more. If he rebelled at that, there must be a trial of strength 
between them. " Look you here,'' he said. " We have but 
barely enough food to serve us until help comes — if it does 
come. I have the care of that poor woman and child, and I 
will see fair play for their sakes. You shall share with us to our 
last bit and drop ; but, by Heaven, you shall get no more." 

The convict, stretching out his wasted arms, looked down 
upon them with the uncertain gaze of a drunken man. " I am 
weak now," he said. " You have the best of me ; '' and then he 
sank suddenly down upon the ground, exhausted. " Give me 
drink," he moaned, feebly motioning with his hand. 

Frere got him water in the pannikin, and having drunk it, he 
smiled, and lay down to sleep again. Mrs. Vickers and Sylvia 
coming out while he still slept, recognized him as the desperado 
of the settlement. 

" He was the most desperate man we had," said Mrs. Vickers, 
identifying herself with her husband. "Oh, what shall we 
do ? " 

"He won't do much harm," returned Frere, looking down at 
the notorious ruffian with curiosity. " He's as near dead as can 
be." 

Sylvia looked up at him with her clear child's glance. " We 
mustn't let him die," said she. " That would be murder." 



"MR." DAWES. Kl 



" No, no," returned Frere, hastily ; " no one wants him to die. 
But what can we do ?" 

"I'll nurse him !" cried Sylvia. 

Frere broke into one of his coarse laughs, the first one that 
he had indulged in since the mutiny. " You nurse him ! By 
George, that's a good one !" The poor little child, weak and 
excitable, felt the contempt in the tone, and burst into a passion 
of sobs. " Why do you insult me, you wicked man ? The 
poor fellow's ill, and he'll— he'll die, like Mr. Bates. Oh, 
mamma, mamma, let's go away by ourselves.'' 

Frere swore a great oath, and walked away. He went into 
the little wood under the cliff, and sat down. He was full of 
strange thoughts, which he could not express, and which he 
had never owned before. The dislike the child bore to him 
made him miserable, and yet he took delight in torment- 
ing her. He was conscious that he had acted the part of a 
coward the night before in endeavouring to frighten her, and 
that the detestation she bore him was well earned ; but he 
had fully determined to stake his life in her defence, should the 
savage who had thus come upon them out of the desert attempt 
violence, and he was unreasonably angry at the pity she had 
shown. It was not fair to be thus misinterpreted. But he had 
dune wrong to swear, and more so in quitting them so abruptly. 
The consciousness of his wrong-doing, however, only made him 
more confirmed in it. His native obstinacy would not allow 
him to retract what he had said— even to himself. Walking 
along, he came to Bates's grave, and the cross upon it. Here 
was another evidence of ill-treatment. She had always preferred 
Bates. Now that Bates was gone, she must needs transfer her 
childish affections to a convict. " Oh," said Frere to himself, 
with pleasant recollections of many coarse triumphs in love- 
making, "if you were a woman, you little vixen, I'd make you 
love me !" When he had said this, he laughed at himself for 
his folly — "lie was turning romantic!" 

When he got back, he found Dawes stretched upon the brush- 
wood, with Sylvia sitting near him. 

" He is better," said Mrs. Vickcrs, disdaining to refer to the 
scene of the morning. "Sit down and have something to eat, 
Mr. Frere." 

" Are you better?" asked Frere, abruptly. 

To his surprise, the convict answered quite civilly, " I shall 



152 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

be strong again in a day or two, and then I can help you, 
sir." 

"Help me? How?" 

" To build a hut here for the ladies. And we'll live here all 
our lives, and never go back to the sheds any more." 

" He has been wandering a little," said Mrs Vickers. " Poor 
fellow, he seems quite well behaved." 

The convict began to sing a little German song, and to beat 
the refrain with his hand. Frere looked at him with curiosity. 
" I wonder what the story of that man's life has been," he said. 
"A queer one, I'll be bound." 

Sylvia looked up at him with a forgiving smile. ' I'll ask 
him when he gets well," she said, "and if you are good, I'll tell 
you, Mr. Frere." 

Frere accepted the proffered friendship. " I am a great brute, 
Sylvia, sometimes, ain't I ? " he said, " but I don't mean it." 

" You are," returned Sylvia, frankly, " but let's shake hands, 
and be friends. It's no use quarrelling when there are only 
four of us, is it ? 

And in this way was Rufus Dawes admitted a member of the 
family circle. 

Within a week from the night on which he had seen the smoke 
of Frere's fire, the convict had recovered his strength, and had 
become an important personage. The distrust with which he had 
been at first viewed had worn off, and he was no longer an outcast, 
to be shunned and pointed at, or to be referred to in whispers. 
He had abandoned his rough manner, and no longer threatened 
or complained, and though at times a profound melancholy 
would oppress him, his spirits were more even than those of 
Frere, who was often moody, sullen, and overbearing. Rufus 
Dawes was no longer the brutalized wretch who had plunged 
into the dark waters of the bay to escape a life he loathed, and 
had alternately cursed and wept in the solitudes of the forests. 
He was an active member of society — a society of four — and he 
began to regain an air of independence and authority. This 
change had been wrought by the influence of little Sylvia. 
Recovered from the weakness consequent upon this terrible 
journey, Rufus Dawes had experienced for the first time in six 
years the soothing power of kindness. He had now an object 
to live for beyond himself. He was of use to somebody, and 
had he died, he would have been regretted. To us this means 



"MR." DAWES. 153 



little, to this unhappy man it meant everything. He found, to 
his astonishment, that he was not despised, and that, by the 
strange concurrence of circumstances, he had been brought 
into a position in which his convict experiences gave him 
authority. He was skilled in all the mysteries of the prison 
sheds. He knew how to sustain life on as little food as possible. 
He could fell trees without an axe, bake bread without an oven, 
build a weather-proof hut without bricks or mortar. From the 
patient he became the adviser ; and from the adviser, the com- 
mander. In the semi-savage state to which these four human 
beings had been brought, he found that savage accomplishments 
were of most value. Might was Right, and Maurice Frere's 
authority of gentility soon succumbed to Rufus Dawes's autho- 
rity of knowledge. 

As the time wore on, and the scanty stock of provisions de- 
creased, he found that his authority grew more and more power- 
ful. Did a question arise as to the qualities of a strange plant, 
it was Rufus Dawes who could pronounce upon it. Were fish 
to be caught, it was Rufus Dawes who caught them. Did Mrs. 
Vickers complain of the instability of her brushwood hut, it 
was Rufus Dawes who worked a wicker shield, and plastering 
it with clay, produced a wall that defied the keenest wind. He 
made cups out of pine-knots, and plates out of bark-strips. He 
worked harder than any three men. Nothing daunted him, 
nothing discouraged him. When Mrs. Vickers fell sick, from 
anxiety and insufficient food, it was Rufus Dawes who gathered 
fresh leaves for her couch, who cheered her by hopeful words, 
who voluntarily gave up half his own allowance of meat that 
she might grow the stronger on it. The poor woman and her 
child called him " Mr." Dawes. 

Frere watched all this with dissatisfaction that amounted at 
times to positive hatred. Yet he could say nothing, for he 
could not but acknowledge that, beside Dawes, he was incap- 
able. He even submitted to take orders from this escaped 
convict — it was so evident that the escaped convict knew better 
than he. Sylvia began to look upon Dawes as a second Bates. 
He was, moreover, all her own. She had an interest in him, for 
she had nursed and protected him. If it had not been for her, 
this prodigy would not have lived. He felt for her an absorbing 
affection that was almost a passion. She was his good angel, 
his protectress, his glimpse of heaven. She had given him food 



154 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

when he was starving, and had believed in him when the 
world — the world of four — had looked coldly on him. He 
would have died for her, and, for love of her, hoped for the 
vessel which should take her back to freedom and give him 
again to bondage. 

But the days stole on, and no vessel appeared. Each day 
they eagerly scanned the watery horizon ; each day they longed 
to behold the bowsprit of the returning Ladybird glide past the 
jutting rock that shut out the view of the harbour — but in vain. 
Mrs. Vickcrs's illness increased, and the stock of provisions 
began to run short. Dawes talked of putting himself and Frere 
on half allowance. It was evident that, unless succour came in 
a few days, they must starve. 

Frere mooted all sorts of wild plans for obtaining food, lie 
would make a journey to the settlement, and, swimming fie 
estuary, search if haply any casks of biscuit had been left be- 
hind in the hurry of departure. He would set springes for the 
seagulls, and snare the pigeons at Liberty Point. But al these 
proved impracticable, and with blank faces they watched their 
bag of flour grow smaller and smaller daily. Then the notion 
of escape was broached. Could they construct a raft? Im- 
possible without nails or ropes. Could they build a boat ? 
Equally impossible for the same reason. Could they raise a 
fire sufficient to signal a ship ? Easily ; but what ship would 
come within reach of that doubly-desolate spot? Nothing 
could be done but wait for a vessel, which was sure to come 
for them sooner or later ; and, growing weaker day by day 
they waited. 

One day Sylvia was sitting in the sun reading the "English 
History," which, by the accident of fright, she had brought 
with her on the night of the mutiny. " Mr. Frere," said she, 
suddenly, " what is an alchemist ?" 

"A man who makes gold," was Frere's not very accurate 
definition. 

"Do you know one ?" 

" No." 

"Do you, Mr. Dawes?" 

" I knew a man once who thought himself one.'' 

" What ! A man who made gold ?" 

w After a fashion." 

" But did he make gold?" persisted Sylvia. 



WHAT THE SEAWEED SUGGESTED. 155 

"No, not absolutely make it. But he was, in his worship of 
money, an alchemist for all that." 

"What became of him ?" 

"I don't know," said Dawes, with so much constraint in his 
tone that the child instinctively turned the subject. 

"Then, alchemy is a very old art?" 

"Oh, yes." 

"Did the Ancient Britons know it ?" 

" No, not so old as that." 

Sylvia suddenly gave a little scream. The remembrance of 
the evening when she read about the Ancient Britons to poor 
Bates came vividly into her mind, and though she had since re- 
read the passage that had then attracted her attention a hundred 
times, it had never before presented itself to her in its full signi- 
ficance. Hurriedly turning the well-thumbed leaves, she read 
aloud the passage which had provoked remark : — ■ 

"The Ancient Britons were little better than Barbarians. 
"They painted their bodies with Woad, and, seated in their 
"light coracles of skin stretched upon slender wooden frames, 
"must have presented a wild and savage appearance." 

"A ecraele ! That's a boat ! Can't wc make a coracle, Mr. 
Dawes ?" 



CHAPTER XIII. 
WHAT THE SEAWEED SUGGESTED. 

THE question gave the marooned party new hopes. 
Maurice Frcre, with his usual impetuosity, declared 
that the project was a most feasible one, and wondered — 
as such men will wonder — that it had never occurred to him 
before. " It's the simplest thing in the world ! " he cried. 
" Sylvia, you have saved us ! " But upon taking the matter 
into more earnest consideration, it became apparent that they 
were as yet a long way from the realization of their hopes. To 
make a coracle of skins seemed sufficiently easy, but how to 
obtain the skins ! The one miserable hide of the unlucky she- 
goat was utterly inadequate for the purpose. Sylvia — her face 
beaming with hope of escape, aad with delight at having been 
the means of suggesting it — watched narrowly the countenance 



156 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

of Rufus Dawes, but she marked no answering gleam of joy in 
those downcast eyes. " Can't it be done, Mr. Dawes ? " she 
asked, trembling for the reply. 

The convict knitted his brows gloomily. 
" Come, Dawes !" cried Frere, forgetting his enmity for an 
instant, in the flash of new hope, " can't you suggest some- 
thing?" 

Rufus Dawes, thus appealed to as the acknowledged Head 
of the little society, felt a pleasant thrill of self-satisfaction. " I 
don't know," he said, " I must think of it. It looks easy, and 

yet ' ' He paused as something in the water caught his eye 

It was a mass of bladdery seaweed that the returning tide was 
wafting slowly to the shore. This object, which would have 
passed unnoticed at any other time, suggested to Rufus Dawes 
a new idea. " Yes," he added slowly, with a change of tone, 
" it may be done. I think I see my way." 

The others preserved a respectful silence until he should 
speak again. " How far do you think it is across the bay ? " 
he asked of Frere. 

"What, to Sarah Island?" 
" No, to the Pilot Station." 
" About four miles." 

The convict sighed. " Too far to swim now, though I might 
have done it once. But this sort of life weakens a man. It 
must be done after all." 

" What are you going to do ? " asked Frere. 
" To kill the goat." 

Sylvia uttered a little cry ; she had become fond of her dumb 
companion. " Kill Nanny ! Oh, Mr. Dawes ! What for ? " 

" I am going to make a boat for you," he said ; " and I want 
hides, and thread, and tallow." 

A few weeks back Maurice Frere would have laughed at such 
a sentence, but he had begun now to comprehend that this 
escaped convict was not a man to be laughed at, and though 
he detested him for his superiority, he could not but admit that 
he was superior. 

"You can't get more than one hide off a goat, man?" he 
said, with an inquiring tone in his voice — as though it was just 
possible that such a marvellous being as Dawes could get a 
second hide, by virtue of some secret process known only to 
himself. 



WHAT THE SEAWEED SUGGESTED. 157 

" I am going to catch other goats." 

"Where?" 

"At the Pilot Station." 

" But how are you going to get there ? " 

" Float across. Come, there is no time for questioning ! Go 
and cut down some saplings, and let us begin ! " 

The lieutenant-master looked at the convict prisoner with 
astonishment, and then gave way to the power of knowledge, 
and did as he was ordered. Beforeisundown that evening, the 
carcase of poor Nanny, broken into various most unbutcherly 
fragments, was hanging on the nearest tree ; and Frere, return- 
ing with as many young saplings as he could drag together, 
found Rufus Dawes engaged in a curious occupation. He had 
killed the goat, and having cut off its head close under the jaws, 
and its legs at the knee-joint, had extracted the carcase through 
a slit made in the lower portion of the belly, which slit he had 
now sewn together with string. This proceeding gave him a 
rough bag, and he was busily engaged in filling this bag with 
such coarse grass as he could collect. Frere observed, also, 
that the fat of the animal was carefully preserved, and the in- 
testines had been placed in a pool of water to soak. 

The convict, however, declined to give information as to 
what he intended to do. "It's my own notion," he said. "Let 
me alone. I may make a failure of it." Frere, on being 
pressed by Sylvia, affected to know all about the scheme, but 
to impose silence on himself. He was galled to think that a 
convict brain should cgntain a mystery. which he might not 
share. 

On the next day, by Rufus Dawes's directions, Frere cut 
down some rushes that grew about a mile from the camping- 
ground, and brought them in on his back. This took him 
nearly half a day to accomplish. Short rations were beginning 
to tell upon his physical powers. The convict, on the other 
hand, trained by a woeful experience in the Boats, to endurance 
of hardship, was slowly recovering his original strength. 

" What are they for?" asked Frere, as he llungthe bundles 
down. 

His master condescended to reply. " To make a float." 

"Well?" 

The other shrugged his broad shoulders. "You are very 
dull, Mr. Frere. I am going to swim over to the Pilot Station, 



HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



and catch some of those goats. / can get across on the stuffed 
skin, but I must float them back on the reeds." 

" How the doose do you mean to catch 'em?" asked Frere, 
wiping the sweat from his brow. 

The convict motioned to him to approach. He did so, and 
saw that his companion was cleaning the intestines of the goat. 
The outer membrane having been peeled off, Rufus Dawes was 
turning the gut inside out. This he did by turning up a short 
piece of it, as though it were a coat-sleeve, and dipping the 
turned-up cuff into a pool of water. The weight of the water 
pressing between the cuff and the rest of the gut, bore down a 
further portion ; and so, by repeated dippings, the whole length 
was turned inside out. The inner membrane having been 
scraped away, there remained a fine transparent tube, which 
was tightly twisted, and set to dry in the sun. 

" There is the catgut for the noose," said Dawes. " I learnt 
that trick at the settlement. Nov/ come here." 

Frere, following, saw that a fire had been made between two 
stones, and that the kettle was partly sunk in the ground near 
it. On approaching the kettle, he found it full of smooth 
pebbles. 

"Take out those stones," said Dawes. 

Frere obeyed, and saw at the bottom of the kettle a quantity 
of sparkling white powder, and the sides of the vessel crusted 
with the same material. 

" What's that ? " he asked. 

" Salt." 

" How did you get it ? " 

" I filled the kettle with seawater, and then heating those 
pebbles red-hot in the fire, dropped them into it. We could 
have caught the steam in a cloth and wrung out fresh water had 
we wished to do so. But, thank God, we have plenty." 

Frere started. " Did you learn that at the settlement, too ? " 
he asked. 

Rufus Dawes laughed, with a sort of bitterness in his tones. 

" Do you think I have been at the ' settlement' all my life ? 
The thing is very simple ; it is merely evaporation." 

Frere burst out in sudden, fretful admiration : " What a 
fellow you are, Dawes ! What are you — I mean, what have you 
been?" 

A triumphant light came into the other's face, and for the 



A WONDERFUL DAY'S WORK. 159 

instant he seemed about to make some startling revelation. 
But the light faded, and he checked himself with a gesture of 
pain. 

" I am a convict. Never mind what I have been. A sailor, 
shipbuilder, prodigal, vagabond — what does it matter? It won't 
alter my fate, will it ? " 

" If we get safely back," says Frere, " I'll ask for a free pardon 
for you. You deserve it." 

" Come," returned Dawes, with a discordant laugh. " Let us 
wait until we do get back." 

" You don't believe me ? " 

" I don't want favour at your hands," he said, with a return of 
the old fierceness. " Let us get to work. Bring up the rushes 
here, and tie them with a fishing-line." 

At this instant Sylvia came up. 

" Good afternoon, Mr. Dawes. Hard at work ? Oh ! what's 
this in the kettle?" 

The voice of the child acted like a charm upon Rufus Dawes. 
He smiled quite cheerfully. 

" Salt, miss. I am going to catch the goats with that." 

" Catch the goats ! How ? Put it on their tails ? " she cried, 
merrily. 

"Goats are fond of salt, and when I get over to the Pilot 
Station, I shall set traps for them baited with this salt. When 
they come to lick it, I shall have a noose of catgut ready to 
catch them — do you understand ? ' 

" But how will you get across ? 

u You will see to-morrow." 



CHAPTER XIV. 

A WONDERFUL DAY'S WORK. 



THE next morning Rufus Dawes was stirring by daylight. 
He first got his catgut wound upon a piece of stick, and 
then, having moved his frail floats alongside the little rock 
that served as a pier, he took a fishing-line and a larger piece 
of stick, and proceeded to draw a diagram on the sand. This 
diagram when completed represented a rude outline of a punt, 



160 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

eight feet long and three broad. At certain distances were eight 
points — four on each side — into which small willow rods were 
driven. He then awoke Frere, and showed the diagram to 
him. 

" Get eight stakes of celery-top pine," he said. u You can 
burn them where you cannot cut them, and drive a stake into 
the place of each of these willow wands. When you have done 
that, collect as many willows as you can get. I shall not be 
back until to-night. Now give me a hand with the floats." 

Frere, coming to the pier, saw Dawes strip himself, and piling 
his clothes upon the stuffed goat- skin, stretch himself upon the 
reed bundles, and, paddling with his hands, push off from the 
shore. The clothes floated high and dry, but the reeds, de- 
pressed by the weight of the body, sank so that the head of the 
convict alone appeared above water. In this fashion he gained 
the middle of the current, and the out-going tide swept him 
down towards the mouth of the harbour. 

Frere, sulkily admiring, went back to prepare the breakfast— 
they were on half rations now, Dawes having forbidden the 
slaughtered goat to be eaten, lest his expedition should prove 
unsuccessful — wondering at the chance which had thrown this 
convict in his way. " Parsons would call it ' a special provi- 
dence,' " he said to himself. " For if it hadn't been for him, we 
should never have got thus far. If his 'boat' succeeds, we're all 
right, I suppose. He's a clever dog. I wonder who he is." 
His training as a master of convicts made him think how 
dangerous such a man would be on a convict station. It would 
be difficult to keep a fellow of such resources. "They'll have 
to look pretty sharp after him if they ever get him back," he 
thought. " I'll have a fine tale to tell of his ingenuity." The 
conversation of the previous day occurred to him. " I pro- 
mised to ask for a free pardon. He wouldn't have it though. 
Too proud to accept it at my hands ! How confoundedl 
impudent a little liberty makes these beggars ! Wait until we 
get back. I'll teach him his place ; for, after all, it is his own 
liberty that he is working for as well as mine — I mean, ours." 
Then a thought came into his head that was in every way 
worthy of him. " Suppose we took the boat, and left him 
behind !" The notion seemed so ludicrously wicked, that he 
laughed involuntarily. 

" What is it, Mr. Frere ? " 



A WONDERFUL DAYS WORK. 161 

" Oh, it's you, Sylvia, is it ? Ha, ha, ha ! I was thinking of 
something — something funny." 

"Indeed," said Sylvia, "I am glad of that. Where's Mr. 
Dawes?" 

Frere was displeased at the interest with which she asked the 
question. 

" You are always thinking of that fellow. It's Dawes, Dawes, 
Dawes, all day long. He has gone." 

"Oh!" with a sorrowful accent. "Mamma wants to see 
him." 

" What about ? " says Frere roughly. 

" Mamma is ill, Mr. Frere." 

" Dawes isn't a doctor. What's the matter with her?" 

" She is worse than she was yesterday. I don't know what is 
the matter." 

Frere, somewhat alarmed, strode over to the little cavern. 

The "lady of the Commandant" was in a strange plight. 
The cavern was lofty, but narrow. In shape it was three 
cornered, having two sides open to the wind. The ingenuity 
of Rufus Dawes had closed these sides with wicker-work and 
clay, and a sort of door of interlaced brushwood hung at one of 
them. Frere pushed open this door and entered. The poor 
woman was lying on a bed of rushes strewn over young brush- 
wood, and was moaning feebly. From the first she had felt the 
privation to which she was subjected most keenly, and the 
mental anxiety from which she suffered increased her physical 
debility. The exhaustion and lassitude to which she had 
partially succumbed soon after Dawes'« arrival, had now com- 
pletely overcome her, and she was unable to rise. 

" Cheer up, ma'am," said Maurice, with an assumption of 
heartiness. " It will be all right in a day or two." 

" Is it you ? I sent for Mr. Dawes." 

" He is away just now. I am making a boat. Did not 
Sylvia tell you ? " 

" She told me that he was making one." 

"Well I — that is ive — are making it. He will be back again 
to-night. Can I do anything for you ? " 

" No, thank you. I only wanted to know how he was getting 
on. I must go soon — if I am to go. Thank you, Mr. Frere, 
I am much obliged to you. This is a — he-e — dreadful place to 
have visitors, isn't it ? " 

II 



i6 2 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

" Never mind," said Frere, again, " you will be back in 
Hobart Town in a few days now. We are sure to get picked 
up by a ship. But you must cheer up. Have some tea or 
something.'' 

" No, thank you — I don't feel well enough to eat. I am 
tired." 

Sylvia began to cry. 

" Don't cry, dear. I shall be better by-and-by. Oh, I wish 
Mr. Dawes was back." 

Maurice Frere went out indignant. This " Mr." Dawes was 
everybody, it seemed, and he was nobody. Let them wait a 
little. All that day, working hard to carry out the convict's 
directions, he meditated a thousand plans by which he could 
turn the tables. He would accuse Dawes of violence. He 
would demand that he should be taken back as an "absconder." 
He would insist that the law should take its course, and that 
the " death " which was the doom of all who were caught in the 
act of escape from a penal settlement, should be enforced. Yet 
if they got safe to land, the marvellous courage and ingenuity 
of the prisoner would tell strongly in his favour. The woman 
and child would bear witness to his tenderness and skill, and 
plead for him. As he had said, the convict deserved a pardon. 
The mean, bad man, burning with wounded vanity and unde- 
fined jealousy, waited for some method to suggest itself, by 
which he might claim the credit of the escape, and snatch from 
the prisoner, who had dared to rival him, the last hope of 
freedom. 

Rufus Dawes, drifting with the current, had allowed himself 
to coast along the eastern side of the harbour until the Pilot 
Station appeared in view on the opposite shore. By this time 
it was nearly seven o'clock. He landed at a sandy cove, and 
drawing up his raft, proceeded to unpack from among his 
garments a piece of damper. Having eaten sparingly, and 
dried himself in the sun, he replaced the remains of his break- 
fast, and pushed his floats again into the water. The Pilot 
Station lay some distance below him, on the opposite shore. 
He had purposely made his second start from a point which 
would give him this advantage of position ; for had he attempted 
to paddle across at right angles, the strength of the current 
would have swept him out to sea. Weak as he was, he several 
times nearly lost his hold of the reeds. The clumsy bundle 



A WONDERFUL DAYS WORK. 163 

presenting too great a broadside to the stream, whirled round 
and round, and was once or twice nearly sucked under. At 
length, however, breathless and exhausted, he gained the op- 
posite bank, half a mile below the point he had attempted to 
make, and carrying his floats out of reach of the tide, made off 
across the hill to the Pilot Station. 

Arrived there about mid-day, he set to work to lay his snares. 
The goats, with whose hides he hoped to cover the coracle, 
were sufficiently numerous and tame, to encourage him to use 
every exertion. He carefully examined the tracks of the 
animals, and found that they converged to one point — the 
track to the nearest water. With much labour, he cut down 
bushes, so as to mask the approach to the waterhole on all 
sides save where these tracks immediately conjoined. Close 
to the water, and at unequal distances along the various tracks, 
he scattered the salt he had obtained by his rude distillation 
of sea-water. Between this scattered salt and the points where 
he judged the animals would be likely to approach, he set his 
traps, made after the following manner. He took several pliant 
branches of young trees, and having stripped them of leaves and 
twigs, dug with his knife and the end of the rude paddle he had 
made for the voyage across the inlet, a succession of holes, 
about a foot deep. At the thicker end of these saplings he 
fastened, by a piece of fishing-line, a small cross-bar, which 
swung loosely, like the stick handle which a schoolboy fastens 
to the string of his pegtop. Forcing the ends of the saplings 
thus prepared into the holes, he filled in and stamped down 
the earth all around them. The saplings, thus anchored as it 
were by the cross-pieces of stick, not only stood firm, but re- 
sisted all his efforts to withdraw them. To the thin ends of 
these saplings he bound tightly, into notches cut in the wood, 
and secured by a multiplicity of twisting, the catgut springes 
he had brought from the camping ground. The saplings were 
then bent double, and the gutted ends secured in the ground 
by the same means as that employed to fix the butts. This was 
the most difficult part of the business, for it was necessary to 
discover precisely the amount of pressure that would hold tho 
bent rod without allowing it to escape by reason of this elasticity, 
and which would yet "give" to a slight pull on the gut. After 
many failures, however, this happy medium was discovered ; 
and Rufus Dawes, concealing his springes by means of twigs, 



1 64 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

smoothed the disturbed sand with a branch, and retired to 
watch the effect of his labours. 

About two hours after he had gone, the goats came to drink. 
There were five goats and two kids, and they trotted calmly 
along the path to the water. The watcher soon saw that his 
precautions had been in a manner wasted. The leading goat 
marched gravely into the springe, which, catching him round 
the neck, released the bent rod, and sprang him off his legs into 
the air. He uttered a comical bleat, and then hung kicking. 
Rufus Dawes, though the success of the scheme was a matter 
of life and death, burst out laughing at the antics of the beast. 
The other goats bounded off at this sudden elevation of their 
leader, and three more were entrapped at a little distance. 
Rufus Dawes now thought it time to secure his prize, though 
three of the springes were as yet unsprung. He ran down to 
the old goat, knife in hand, but before he could reach him, the 
barely-dried cat-gut gave way, and the old fellow, shaking his 
head with grotesque dismay, made off at full speed. The 
others, however, were secured and killed. The loss of the 
springe was not a serious one, for three traps remained un- 
sprung, and before sundown Rufus Dawes had caught four 
more goats. Removing with care the cat-gut that had done 
such good service, he dragged the carcases to the shore, and 
proceeded to pack them upon his floats. He discovered, how- 
ever, that the weight was too great, and that the water, entering 
through the loops of the stitching in the hide, had so soaked 
the rush-grass as to render the floats no longer buoyant. He 
was compelled, therefore, to spend two hours in re-stuffing the 
skin with such material as he could find. Some light and 
flock-like seaweed, which the action of the water had swathed 
after the fashion of haybands along the shore, formed an 
excellent substitute for grass, and having bound his bundle of 
rushes lengthwise, with the goat-skin as a centre-piece, he 
succeeded in forming a sort of rude canoe, upon which the 
carcases floated securely. 

He had eaten nothing since the morning, and the violence of 
his exertions had exhausted him. Still, sustained by the excite- 
ment of the task he had set himself, he dismissed with fierce 
impatience the thought of rest, and dragged his weary limbs 
along the sand, endeavouring to kill fatigue by further exertion. 
The tide was now running in, and he knew it was imperative 



A WONDERFUL DATS WORK. 165 

that he should regain the further shore while the current was in 
his favour. To cross from the Pilot Station at low water was 
impossible. If he waited until the ebD, he must spend another 
day on the shore, and he could not afford to lose an hour. 
Cutting a long sapling, he fastened to one end of it the floating 
bundle, and thus guided it to a spot where the beach shelved 
abruptly into deep water. It was a clear night, and the risen 
moon, large and low, flung a rippling streak of silver across the 
sea. On the other side of the bay all was bathed in a violent 
haze, which veiled the inlet from which he had started in the 
morning. The fire of the exiles, hidden behind a point of rock, 
cast a red glow into the air. The ocean breakers rolled in 
upon the cliffs outside the bar, with a hoarse and threatening 
murmur ; and the rising tide rippled and lapped with treacherous 
melody along the sand. He touched the chill water and drew 
back. For an instant he determined to wait until the beams of 
morning should illumine that beautiful but treacherous sea, and 
then the thought of the helpless child, who was, without doubt, 
waiting and watching for him on the shore, gave new strength 
to his wearied frame ; and fixing his eyes on the glow that, 
hovering above the dark tree line, marked her presence, he 
pushed the raft before him into the sea. 

The reeds sustained him bravely, but the strength of the 
current sucked him underneath the water, and for several 
seconds he feared that he should be compelled to let go his 
hold. But his muscles, steeled in the slow fire of convict-labour, 
withstood this last strain upon them, and, half-suffocated, with 
bursting chest and paralyzed fingers, he preserved his position, 
until the mass, getting out of the eddies along the shore-line, 
drifted steadily down the silvery track that led to the settle- 
ment. After a few moments' rest, he set his teeth, and urged 
his strange canoe towards the shore. Paddling and pushing, 
he gradually edged it towards the fire-light ; and at last, just 
when his stiffened limbs refused to obey the impulse of his will, 
and he began to drift onwards with the onward tide, he felt 
his feet strike firm ground. Opening his eyes — closed in the 
desperation of his last efforts — he found himself safe under the 
lee of the rugged promontory which hid the fire. It seemed 
that the waves, tired of persecuting him, had, with disdainful 
pity, cast him ashore at the goal of his hopes. Looking back, 
he for the first time realized the frightful peril he had escaped, 



1 66 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

and shuddered. To this shudder succeeded a thrill of triumph. 
"Why had he stayed so long, when escape was so easy?" 
Dragging the carcases above high-water mark he rounded the 
little promontory and made for the fire. The recollection of 
the night when he had first approached it came upon him, and 
increased his exultation. How different a man was he now 
from then ! Passing up the sancb, he saw the stakes which he 
had directed Frere to cut, whiten in the moonshine. His officer 
worked for him ! In his own brain alone lay the secret of 
escape ! He — Rufus Dawes — the scarred, degraded "prisoner," 
could alone get these three beings back to civilization. Did he 
refuse to aid them, they would for ever remain in that prison, 
where he had so long suffered. The tables were turned — he 
had become a gaoler ! He had gained the fire before the 
solitary watcher there heard his footsteps, and spread his hands 
to the blaze in silence. He felt as Frere would have felt, had 
their positions been reversed, disdainful of the man who had 
stopped at home. 

Frere, starting, cried, " It is you ! Have you succeeded?" 

Rufus Dawes nodded. 

" What ! Did you catch them ? " 

" There are six carcases down by the rocks. You can have 
meat for breakfast to-morrow I" 

The child, at the sound of the voice, came running down 
from the hut. " Oh, Mr. Dawes ! I am so glad ! We were 
beginning to despair — mamma and I." 

Dawes snatched her from the ground, and bursting into a 
joyous laugh, swung her into the air. " Tell me," he cried, 
holding up the child with two dripping arms above him, " what 
you will do for me if I bring you and mamma safe home 
again ? " 

" Give you a free pardon," says Sylvia, " and papa shall 
make you his servant ! " Frere burst out laughing at this 
reply ; and Dawes, with a choking sensation in his throat, put 
the child upon the ground, and walked away. 

This was in truth all he could hope for. All his scheming, 
all his courage, all his peril, would but result in the patronage 
of a great man like Major Vickers. His heart, big with love, 
with self-denial, and with hopes of a fair future, would have 
this flattering unction laid to it. He had performed a prodigy 
of skill and daring, and for his reward he was to be made a 



THE CORACLE. 167 



servant to the creatures he had protected. Yet what more could 
a convict expect ? Sylvia saw how deeply her unconscious 
hand had driven the iron, and ran up to the man she had 
wounded. " And, Mr. Dawes, remember that I shall love you 
always." The convict, however, his momentary excitement 
over, motioned her away ; and she saw him stretch himself 
wearily under the shadow of a rock. 



CHAPTER XV. 

THE CORACLE. 



IN the morning, however, Rufus Dawes was first at work, 
and made no allusion to the scene of the previous evening. 
He had already skinned one of the goats, and he directed 
Frere to set to work upon another. " Cut down the rump to 
the hock, and down the brisket to the knee," he said. " I 
want the hides as square as possible." By dint of hard work 
they got the four goats skinned, and the entrails cleaned ready 
for twisting, by breakfast time ; and having broiled some of 
the flesh, made a hearty meal. Mrs. Vickers being no better, 
Dawes went to see her, and seemed to have made friends again 
with Sylvia, for he came out of the hut with the child's hand in 
his. Frere, who was cutting the meat in long strips to dry in 
the sun, saw this, and it added fresh fuel to the fire of his 
unreasonable envy and jealousy. However, he said nothing, 
for his enemy had not yet shown him how the boat was to be 
made. Before mid-day, however, he was a partner in the secret, 
which, after all, was a very simple one. 

Rufus Dawes took two of the straightest and most taper of 
the celery-top pines which Frere had cut on the previous day, 
and lashed them tightly together, with the butts outwards. He 
thus produced a spliced stick about twelve feet long. About 
two feet from either end he notched the young tree until he 
could bend the extremities upwards ; and having so bent them, 
he secured the bent portions in their places by means of 
lashings of raw hide. The spliced trees now presented a rude 
outline of the section of a boat, having the stem, keel, and stern 
all in one piece. This having been placed lengthwise between 



1 68 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

the stakes, fou-r other poles, notched in two places, were lashed 
from stake to stake, running crosswise to the keel, and forming 
the knees. Four saplings were now bent from end to end of 
the upturned portions of the keel that represented stem and 
stern. Two of these four were placed above, as gunwales ; 
two below as bottom rails. At each intersection the sticks 
were lashed firmly with fishing-line. The whole framework 
being complete, the stakes were drawn out, and there lay 
upon the ground the skeleton of a boat eight feet long by three 
broad. 

Frere, whose hands were blistered and sore, would fain have 
rested ; but the convict would not hear of it. " Let us finish," 
he said, regardless of his own fatigue ; " the skins will be dry if 
we stop." 

" I can work no more," says Frere, sulkily ; " I can't stand. 
You've got muscles of iron, I suppose. I haven't." 

" They made me work when I couldn't stand, Maurice Frere. 
It is wonderful what spirit the cat gives a man. There's 
nothing like work to get rid of aching muscles — so they used 
to tell me." 

" Well, what's to be done now ? " 

" Cove-r the boat. There, you can set the fat to melt, and 
sew these hides together. Two and two, do you see ? and 
then sew the pair at the necks. There is plenty of catgut 
yonder." 

" Don't talk to me as if I was a dog ! " says Frere suddenly. 
" Be civil, can't you." 

But the other, busily trimming and cutting at the project- 
ing pieces of sapling, made no reply. It is possible that he 
thought the fatigued lieutenant beneath his notice. About an 
hour before sundown the hides were ready, and Rufus Dawes, 
having in the meantime interlaced the ribs of the skeleton with 
wattles, stretched the skins over it, with the hairy side inwards. 
Along the edges of this covering he bored holes at intervals, 
and passing through these holes thongs of twisted skin, he 
drew the whole to the top rail of the boat. One last precau- 
tion remained. Dipping the pannikin into the melted tallow, 
he plentifully anointed the seams of the sewn skins. The 
boat, thus turned topsy-turvey, looked like a huge walnut shell 
covered with red and recking hide, or the skull of some Titan 
who had been scalped. " There ! " cried Rufus Dawes, 



THE CORACLE. 169 



triumphant. " Twelve hours in the sun to tighten the hides, and 
she'll swim like a duck. 

The next day was spent in minor preparations. The jerked 
goat-meat was packed securely into as small a compass as 
possible. The rum barrel was filled with water, and water-bags 
were improvised out of portions of the intestines 01 the goats. 
Rufus Dawes, having filled these last with water, ran a wooden 
skewer through their mouths, and twisted it tight, tourniquet 
fashion. He also stripped cylindrical pieces of bark, and 
having sewn each cylinder at the side, fitted to it a bottom of 
the same material, and caulked the seams with gum and pine- 
tree resin. Thus four tolerable buckets were obtained. One 
goatskin yet remained, and out of that it was determined to 
make a sail. "The currents are strong," said Rufus Dawes, 
"and we shall not be able to row far with such oars as we 
have got. If we get a breeze it may save our lives." It was 
impossible to " step " a mast in the frail basket structure, but 
this difficulty was overcome by a simple contrivance. From 
thwart to thwart two poles were bound, and the mast, lashed 
between these poles with thongs of raw hide, was secured by 
shrouds of twisted fishing-line running fore and aft. Sheets of 
bark were placed at the bottom of the craft, and made a safe 
flooring. It was late in the afternoon of the fourth day when 
these preparations were completed, and it was decided that on 
the morrow they should adventure the journey. " We will 
coast down to the Bar," said Rufus Dawes, " and wait for the 
slack of the tide. I can do no more now." 

Sylvia, who had seated herself on a rock at a little distance, 
called to them. Her strength was restored by the fresh meat, 
and her childish spirits had risen with the hope of safety. The 
mercurial little creature had wreathed seaweed about her head, 
and holding in her hand a long twig decorated with a tuft of 
leaves to represent a wand, she personified one of the heroines 
of her books. 

" I am the Queen of the Island," she said merrily, "and you 
are my obedient subjects. Pray, Sir Eglamour, is the boat 
ready ?" 

" It is, your Majesty," said poor Dawes. 

" Then we will see it. Come, walk in front of me. I won't 
ask you to rub your nose upon the ground, like Man Friday, be- 
cause that would be uncomfortable, Mr. Frere, you don't play ? " 



iyo HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

" Oh, yes ! " says Frere, unable to withstand the charming 
pout that accompanied the words. " I'll play. What am I to 
do?" 

" You must walk on this side, and be respectful. Of course 
it is only Pretend, you know," she added, with a quick con- 
sciousness of Frere's conceit. " Now then, the Queen goes to 
the Seashore surrounded by her Nymphs ! There is no occa- 
sion to laugh, Mr. Frere. Of course, Nymphs are very different 
from you, but then we can't help that." 

Marching in this pathetically ridiculous fashion across the 
sand, they halted at the coracle. " So that is the boat !" says 
the Queen, fairly surprised out of her assumption of dignity. 
" You are a Wonderful Man, Mr. Dawes ! " 

Rufus Dawes smiled sadly. " It is very simple." 

"Do you call this simple?" says Frere, who in the general 
joy had shaken off a portion of his sulkiness. " By George, I 
don't ! This is ship-building with a vengeance, this is. There's 
no scheming about this — it's all sheer hard work." 

" Yes ! " echoed Sylvia, " sheer hard work — sheer hard work 
by good Mr. Dawes !" And she began to sing a childish chant 
of triumph, drawing lines and letters in the sand the while, with 
the sceptre of the Queen. 

" Good Mr. Dawes ! 
Good Mr. Dawes I 
This is the work of Good Mr. Dawes 1 " 

Maurice could not resist a sneer. 

" See-saw, Margery Daw, 
Sold her bed, and lay upon straw I M 

said he. 

" Good Mr. Dawes ! " repeated Sylvia, " Good Mr. Dawes ! 
Why shouldn't I say it ? You are disagreeable, sir. I won't 
play with you any more," and she went off along the sand. 

" Poor little child," said Rufus Dawes. " You speak too 
harshly to her." 

Frere — now that the boat was made — had regained his self- 
confidence. Civilization seemed now brought sufficiently close 
to him to warrant his assuming the position of authority to 
which his social position entitled him. " One would think that 
a boat had never been built before to hear her talk," he said. 



THE CORACLE. 171 



" If this washing-basket had been one of my old uncle's three- 
deckers, she couldn't have said much more. By the Lord ! " he 
added, with a coarse laugh, " I ought to have a natural talent 
for ship-building ; for if the old villain hadn't died when he did, 
I should have been a ship-builder myself." 

Rufus Dawes turned his back at the word " died," and busied 
himself with the fastenings of the hides. Could the other have 
seen his face, he would have been struck by its sudden pallor. 

" Ah ! " continued Frere, half to himself, and half to his com- 
panion, " that's a sum of money to lose, isn't it ? " 

"What do you mean?" asked the convict, without turning 
his face. 

" Mean ! Why, my good fellow, I should have been left a 
quarter of a million of money, but the old hunks who was going 
to give it me died before he could alter his will, and every 
shilling went to a scapegrace son, who hadn't been near the 
old man for years. That's the way of the world, isn't it ? " 

Rufus Dawes, still keeping his face away, caught his breath 
as if in astonishment, and then, recovering himself, he said, in 
a harsh voice, " A fortunate fellow — that son ! " 

" Fortunate ! " cries Frere, with another oath. " Yes, he was 
fortunate ! He was burnt to death in the Hydaspcs, and never 
heard of his luck. His mother has got the money, though. I 
never saw a shilling of it." And then, seemingly displeased 
with himself for having allowed his tongue to get the better of 
his dignity, he walked away to the fire, musing, doubtless, 
on the difference between Maurice Frere, with a quarter of a 
million, disporting himself in the best society that could be 
procured, with command of dog-carts, prize-fighters, and game- 
cocks galore ; and Maurice Frere, a penniless lieutenant, ma- 
rooned on the barren coast of Macquaric Harbour, and acting 
as boatbuilder to a runaway convict. 

Rufus Dawes was also lost in reverie. He leant upon the 
gunwale of the much-vaunted boat, and his eyes were fixed upon 
the sea, weltering golden in the sunset, but it was evident that 
he saw nothing of the scene before him. Struck dumb by the 
sudden intelligence of his fortune, his imagination escaped from 
his control, and fled away to those scenes which he had striven 
so vainly to forget. He was looking far away — across the 
glittering harbour and the wide sea beyond it — looking at the 
old house at Hampstead, with its well-remembered gloomy 



172 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

garden. He pictured himself escaped from this present peril, 
and freed from the sordid thraldom which so long had held 
him. He saw himself returning, with some plausible story of 
his wanderings, to take possession of the wealth which was his 
— saw himself living once more, rich, free, and respected, in the 
world from which he had been so long an exile. He saw his 
mother's sweet pale face> the light of a happy home circle. He 
saw himself — received with tears of joy and marvelling affection 
■ — entering into this home circle as one risen from the dead. A 
new life opened radiant before him, and he was lost in the con- 
templation of his own happiness. 

So absorbed was he, that he did not hear the light footstep 
of the child across the sand. Mrs. Vickers, having been told of 
the success which had crowned the convict's efforts, had over- 
come her weakness so far as to hobble down the beach to the 
boat, and now, heralded by Sylvia, approached, leaning on the 
arm of Maurice Frere. 

" Mamma has come to see the boat, Mr. Dawes ! " cries 
Sylvia, but Dawes did not hear. 

The child reiterated her words, but still the silent figure did 
not reply. 

" Mr. Dawes ! " she cried again, and pulled him by the coat- 
sleeve. 

The touch aroused him, and looking down, he saw the pretty, 
thin face upturned to his. Scarcely conscious of what he did, 
and still following out the imagining which made him free, 
wealthy, and respected, he caught the little creature in his arms 
■ — as he might have caught his own daughter — and kissed her. 
Sylvia said nothing ; but Mr. Frere — arrived, by his chain of 
reasoning, at quite another conclusion as to the state of affairs 
— was astonished at the presumption of the man. The lieu- 
tenant regarded himself as already reinstated in his old position, 
and with Mrs. Vickers on his arm, reproved the apparent in- 
solence of the convict as freely as he would have done had they 
both been at his own little kingdom of Maria Island. " You 
insolent beggar ! " he cried. " Do you dare ! Keep your place, 
sir ! " 

The sentence recalled Rufus Dawes to reality. His place 
was that of a convict. What business had he with tenderness 
for the daughter of his master ? Yet, after all he had done, and 
proposed to do, this harsh judgment upon him seemed cruel. 



THE CORACLE. 173 



He saw the two looking at the boat he had built. He marked 
the flush of hope on the cheek of the poor lady, and the full- 
blown authority that already hardened the eye of Maurice 
Frere, and all at once he understood the result of what he had 
done. He had, by his own act, given himself again to bondage. 
As long as escape was impracticable, he had been useful, and 
even powerful. Now he had pointed out the way of escape, he 
had sunk into the beast of burden once again. In the desert 
he was "Mr." Dawes, the saviour; in civilized life he would 
become once more Rufus Dawes, the ruffian, the prisoner, the 
absconder. He stood mute, and let Frere point out the excel- 
lences of the craft in silence ; and then, feeling that the few 
words of thanks uttered by the lady were chilled by her con- 
sciousness of the ill-advised freedom he had taken with the 
child, he turned on his heel, and strode up into the bush. 

"A queer fellow," said Frere, as Mrs. Vickers followed the 
retreating figure with her eyes. " Always in an ill temper." 

" Poor man ! he has behaved very kindly to us," said Mrs. 
Vickers. Yet even she felt the change of circumstance, and 
knew that, without any reason she could name, her blind trust 
and hope in the convict who had saved their lives had been 
transformed into a patronizing kindliness which was quite 
foreign to esteem or affection. 

" Come, let us have some supper," says Frere. " The last we 
shall eat here, I hope. He will come back when his fit of sulks 
is over." 

But he did not come back, and, after a few expressions of 
wonder at his absence, Mrs. Vickers and her daughter, rapt in 
the hopes and fears of the morrow, almost forgot that he had 
left them. With marvellous credulity they looked upon the 
terrible stake they were about to play for as already won. The 
possession of the boat seemed to them so wonderful, that the 
perils of the voyage they were to make in it were altogether lost 
sight of. As for Maurice Frere, he was rejoiced that the con- 
vict was out of the way. He wished that he was out of the way 
altogether. 



174 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



CHAPTER XVI. 
THE WRITING ON THE SAND. 

HAVING got out of eye-shot of the ungrateful creatures 
he had befriended, Rufus Dawes threw himself upon the 
ground in an agony of mingled rage and regret. For the 
first time for six years he had tasted the happiness of doing good, 
the delight of self-abnegation. For the first time for six years he 
had broken through the selfish misanthropy he had taught him- 
self. And this was his reward ! He had held his temper in 
check, in order that it might not offend others. He had banished 
the galling memory of his degradation, lest haply some shadow 
of it might seem to fall upon the fair child whose lot had been so 
strangely cast with his. He had stifled the agony he suffered, 
lest its expression should give pain to those who seemed to feel 
for him. He had forborne retaliation, when retaliation would 
have been most sweet. Having all these years waited and 
watched for a chance to strike his persecutors, he had held his 
hand now that an unlooked-for accident had placed the weapon 
of destruction in his grasp. He had risked his life, foregone 
his enmities, almost changed his nature,— and his reward was 
cold looks and harsh words, so soon as his skill had paved the 
way to freedom. This knowledge coming upon him while the 
thrill of exultation at the astounding news of his riches yet 
vibrated in his brain, made him grind his teeth with rage at his 
own hard fate. Bound by the purest and holiest of ties, — the 
affection of a son to his mother — he had condemned himself to 
social death, rather than buy his liberty and life by a revelation 
which would shame the gentle creature whom he loved. By a 
strange series of accidents, fortune had assisted him to maintain 
the deception he had practised. His cousin had not recognized 
him. The very ship in which he was believed to have sailed, 
had been lost with every soul on board. His identity had been 
completely destroyed — no link remained which could connect 
Rufus Dawes, the convict, with Richard Devine, the vanished 
heir to the wealth of the dead shipbuilder. 

Oh if he had only known ! If, while in the gloomy prison, 
distracted by a thousand fears, and weighed down by crushing 
evidence of circumstance, he had but guessed that death had 



THE WRITING ON THE SAND. 175 



stepped between Sir Richard and his vengeance, he might have 
spared himself the sacrifice he had made. He had been tried 
and condemned as a nameless sailor, who could call no wit- 
nesses in his defence, and give no particulars as to his previous 
history. It was clear to him now that he might have adhered 
to his statement of ignorance concerning the murder, locked in 
his breast the name of the murderer, and have yet been free. 
Judges are just, but popular opinion is powerful, and it was not 
impossible that Richard Devine, the millionaire, would have 
escaped the fate which had overtaken Rufus Dawes, the sailor. 
Into his calculations in the prison — when, half-crazed with love, 
with terror, and despair, he had counted up his chances of life — 
the wild supposition that he had even then inherited the wealth 
of the father who had disowned him, had never entered. The 
knowledge of that fact would have altered the whole current of 
his life, and he learnt it for the first time now — too late. 

Now, lying prone upon the sand ; now, wandering aimlessly 
up and down among the stunted trees that bristled white be- 
neath the mist-barred moon ; now, sitting — as he had sat in the 
prison long ago — with his head gripped hard between his hands, 
swaying his body to and fro, he thought out the frightful problem 
of his bitter life. Of little use was the heritage that he had 
gained. A convict-absconder, whose hands were hard with 
menial service, and whose back was scarred with the lash, could 
never be received among the gently nurtured. Let him lay 
claim to his name and rights, what then ? He was a convicted 
felon, and his name and rights had been taken from him by the 
law. Let him go and tell Maurice Frere that he was his lost 
cousin. He would be laughed at. Let him proclaim aloud his 
birth and innocence, and the convict-sheds would grin, and the 
convict overseer set him to harder labour. Let him even, by 
dint of reiteration, get his wdd story believed, what would 
happen ? If it was heard in England — after the lapse of years, 
perhaps— that a convict in the chain-gang in Macquarie Har- 
bour — a ni an held to be a murderer, and whose convict career 
was one long record of mutiny and punishment — claimed to be 
the heir to an English fortune, and to own the right to dispossess 
staid and worthy English folk of their rank and station, with 
what feeling would the announcement be received ? Certainly 
not with a desire to redeem this ruffian from his bonds and 
place him in the honoured seat of his dead father. Such in- 



176 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



telligence would be regarded as a calamity, an unhappy blot 
upon a fair reputation, a disgrace to an honoured and unsullied 
name. Let him succeed, let him return again to the mother 
who had by this time become reconciled, in a measure, to his 
loss ; he would, at the best, be to her a living shame, scarcely 
less degrading than that which she had dreaded. 

But success was almost impossible. He did not dare to 
retrace his steps through the hideous labyrinth into which he 
had plunged. Was he to show his scarred shoulders as a proof 
that he was a gentleman and an innocent man ? Was he to 
relate the nameless infamies of Macquarie Harbour as a proof 
that he was entitled to receive the hospitalities of the generous, 
and to sit, a respected guest, at the tables of men of refinement ? 
Was he to quote the horrible slang of the prison-ship, and 
retail the filthy jests of the chain-gang and the hulks, as a 
proof that he was a fit companion for pure-minded women and 
innocent children ? Suppose even that he could conceal the 
name of the real criminal, and show himself guiltless of the 
crime for which he had been condemned, all the wealth in the 
world could not buy back that blissful ignorance of evil which 
had once been his. All the wealth in the world could not 
purchase the self-respect which had been cut out of him by 
the lash, or banish from his brain the memory of his degra- 
dation. 

For hours this agony of thought racked him. He cried out 
as though with physical pain, and then lay in a stupor, 
exhausted with actual physical suffering. It was hopeless to 
think of freedom and of honour. Let him keep silence, and 
pursue the life fate had marked out for him. He would return 
to bondage. The law would claim him as an absconder, and 
would mete out to him such punishment as was fitting. Per- 
haps he might escape severest punishment, as a reward for 
his exertions in saving the child. He might consider himself 
fortunate if such was permitted to him. Fortunate ! Suppose 
he did not go back at all, but wandered away into the 
wilderness and died ? Better death than such a doom as his. 
Yet need he die ? He had caught goats, he could catch fish. 
He could build a hut. There was, perchance, at the deserted 
settlement some remnant of seed corn that, planted, would 
give him bread. He had built a boat, he had made an oven, 
he had fenced in a hut. Surelv he could contrive to live alone. 



THE WRITING ON THE WAIL. 177 

savage and free. Alone ! He had contrived all these marvels 
alone ! Was not the boat he himself had built below upon the 
shore ? Why not escape in her, and leave to their fate the 
miserable creatures who had treated him with such ingrati- 
tude? 

The idea flashed into his brain, as though some one had 
spoken the words into his ear. Twenty strides would place 
him in possession of the boat, and half an hour's drifting with 
the current would take him beyond pursuit. Once outside the 
Bar, he would make for the westward, in the hopes of falling 
in with some whaler. He would doubtless meet with one 
before many days, and he was well supplied with provision 
and water in the mean time. A tale of shipwreck would 
satisfy the sailors, and — he paused— he had forgotten that 
the rags which he wore would betray him. With an ex- 
clamation of despair, he started from the posture in which he 
was lying. He thrust out his hands to raise himself, and his 
fingers came in contact with something soft. He had been 
lying at the foot of some loose stones that were piled cairn- 
wise beside a low-growing bush ; and the object that he had 
touched was protruding from beneath these stones. He caught 
it and dragged it forth. It was the shirt of poor Bates. With 
trembling hands he tore away the stones, and pulled forth the 
rest of the garments. They seemed as though they had been 
left purposely for him. Heaven had sent him the very disguise 
he needed. 

The night had passed during his reverie, and the first faint 
streaks of dawn began to lighten in the sky. Haggard and 
pale, he rose to his feet, and scarcely daring to think about 
what he proposed to do, ran towards the boat. As he ran, 
however, the voice that he had heard encouraged him. "Your 
life is of more importance than theirs. They will die, but they 
been ungrateful and deserve death. You will escape out 
of this Hell, and return to the loving heart who mourns you. 
You can do more good to mankind than by saving the lives 
of these people who despise you. Moreover they may not die. 
They arc sure to be sent for. Think of what awaits you when 
you return — an absconded convict ! " 

He was within three feet of the boat, when he suddenly 
checked himself, and stood motionless, staring at the sand with 
as much horror as though he saw there the Writing which 

12 



178 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

foretold the doom of Belshazzar. He had come upon the 
sentence traced by Sylvia the evening before, and glittering in 
the low light of the red sun suddenly risen from out the sea, 
it seemed to him that the letters had shaped themselves at his 
very feet. 

GOOD MR. DAWES. 

" Good Mr. Dawes ! " What a frightful reproach there was to 
him in that simple sentence ! What a world of cowardice, 
baseness, and cruelty, had not those eleven letters opened to 
him ! He heard the voice of the child Avho had nursed him, 
calling on him to save her. He saw her at that instant stand- 
ing between him and the boat, as she had stood when she held 
out to him the loaf, on the night of his return to the settle- 
ment. 

He staggered to the cavern, and seizing the sleeping Frere 
by the arm, shook him violently. " Awake ! awake ! " he 
cried, " and let us leave this place ! " 

Frere, starting to his feet, looked at the white face and 
bloodshot eyes of the wretched man before him with blunt 
astonishment. 

" What's the matter with you, man ? " he said. " You look 
as if you'd seen a ghost ! " 

At the sound of his voice Rufus Dawes gave a long sigh, 
and drew his hand across his eyes. 

" Come, Sylvia ! " shouted Frere, " it's time to get up. I am 
ready to go ! " 

The sacrifice was complete. The convict turned away, and 
two great glittering tears rolled down his rugged face, and fell 
upon the sand. 



CHAPTER XVII. 

AT SEA. 



AN hour after sunrise, the frail boat, which was the last 
1iu[ji_ of these four human beings, drifted with the out- 
going current towards the mouth of the Harbour. When 
first launched she had come nigh swamping, being overloaded, 



AT SEA. 179 

and it was found necessary to leave behind a great portion of 
the dried meat. With what pangs this was done can be easily 
imagined, for each atom of food seemed to represent an hour 
of life. Yet there was no help for it. As Frere said, it was 
"neck or nothing with them." They must get away at all 
hazards. 

That evening they camped at the mouth of the Gates, Dawes 
being afraid to risk a passage until the slack of the tide, and 
about ten o'clock at night adventured to cross the bar. The 
night was lovely, and the sea calm. It seemed as though 
Providence had taken pity on them ; for, notwithstanding the 
insecurity of the craft and the violence of the breakers, the 
dreaded passage was made with safety. Once indeed, when 
they had just entered the surf, a mighty wave, curling high 
above them, seemed about to overwhelm the frail structure of 
skins and wickenvork ; but, Rufus Dawes keeping the nose of 
the boat to the sea, and Frere baling with his hat, they suc- 
ceeded in reaching deep water. A great misfortune, however, 
occurred. Two of the bark buckets, left by some unpardonable 
oversight uncleated, were washed overboard, and with them 
nearly a fifth of their scanty store of water. In the face of the 
greater peril, the accident seemed trifling ; and as, drenched 
and chilled, they gained the open sea, they could not but admit 
that fortune had almost miraculously befriended them. 

They made tedious way with their rude oars ; a light breeze 
from the north-west sprung up with the dawn, and, hoisting the 
goatskin sail, they crept along the coast. It was resolved that 
the two men should keep watch and watch ; and Frere for the 
second time enforced his authority by giving the first watch to 
Rufus Dawes. "I am tired,'' he said, "and shall sleep for 
a little while." 

Rufus Dawes, who had not slept for two nights, and who had 
done all the harder work, said nothing. He had suffered so 
much during the last two days that his senses were becoming 
dulled to pain. 

Frere slept until late in the afternoon, and, when he woke, 
found the boat still tossing on the sea, and Sylvia and her 
mother both sea-sick. This seemed strange to him. Sea-sick- 
ness appeared to be a malady which belonged exclusively to 
civilization. Moodily watching the great green waves which 
curled incessantly between him and the horizon, he marvel !cd 



i8o HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

to think how curiously events had come about. A leaf had, as 
it were, been torn out of his autobiography. It seemed a life- 
time since he had done anything but moodily scan the sea or 
shore. Yet, on the morning of leaving the settlement, he had 
counted the notches on a calendar-stick he carried, and had 
been astonished to find them but twenty-two in number. 
Taking out his knife, he cut two nicks in the wicker gunwale 
of the coracle. That brought him to twenty-four days. The 
mutiny had taken place on the 13th of January ; it was now 
the 6th of February. " Surely," thought he, " the Ladybird 
might have returned by this time." There was no one to tell 
him that the Ladybird had been driven into Port Davey by 
stress of weather, and detained there for seventeen days. 

That night the wind fell, and they had to take to their oars. 
Rowing all night, they made but little progress, and Rufus 
Dawes suggested that they should put in to the shore and wait 
until the breeze sprang up. But, upon getting under the lee of 
a long line of basaltic rocks which rose abruptly out of the 
sea, thej' found the waves breaking furiously upon a horse- 
shoe reef, six or seven miles in length. There was nothing for 
it but to coast again. 

They coasted for two days, without a sign of a sail, and on the 
third day a great wind broke upon them from the south-east, 
and drove them back thirty miles. The coracle began to leak, 
and required constant baling. What was almost as bad, the 
rum-cask, that held the best part of their water, had leaked 
also, and was now half empty. They caulked it, by cutting out 
the leak, and plugging the hole with linen. 

" It's lucky we ain't in the tropics," said Frere. 

Poor Mrs. Vickcrs, lying at the bottom of the boat, wrapped 
in her wet shawl, and chilled to the bone with the bitter wind, 
had not the heart to speak. Surely the stifling calm of the 
tropics could not be worse than this bleak and barren sea. 

The position of the four poor creatures was now almost 
desperate. Mrs. Vickers, indeed, seemed completely pros- 
trated ; and it was evident that, unless some help came, she 
could not long survive the continued exposure to the weather. 
The child was in somewhat better case. Rufus Dawes had 
wrapped her in his woollen shirt, and, unknown to Frere, had 
divided with her daily his allowance of meat. She lay in his 
arms at night, and in the day crept by his side for shelter and 



AT SEA. i Si 

protection. As long as she was near him she felt safe. They 
spoke little to each other, but when Rufus Dawes felt the 
pressure of her tiny hand in his, or sustained the weight of 
her head upon his shoulder, he almost forgot the cold that 
froze him, and the hunger that gnawed him. 

So two more days passed, and yet no sail ! On the tenth 
day after their departure from Macquarie Harbour, they came 
to the end of their provisions. The salt water had spoiled the 
goat-meat, and soaked the bread into a nauseous paste. The 
sea was still running high, and the wind, having veered to the 
north, was blowing with increased violence. The long low line 
of coast that stretched upon their left hand was at times 
obscured by a blue mist. The water was the colour of mud, 
and the sky threatened rain. The wretched craft to which 
they had entrusted themselves was leaking in four places. If 
caught in one of the frequent storms which ravaged that iron- 
bound coast, she could not live an hour. The two men, wearied, 
hungry, and cold, almost hoped for the end to come quickly. 
To add to their distress, the child was seized with fever. She 
was hot and cold by turns, and in the intervals of moaning 
talked deliriously. Rufus Dawes, holding her in his arms, 
watched the suffering he was unable to alleviate, with a savage 
despair at his heart. Was she to die after all ? 

So another day and night passed, and the eleventh morning 
saw the boat yet alive, rolling in the trough of the same deserted 
sea. The four exiles lay in her almost without breath. 

All at once Dawes uttered a cry, and seizing the sheet, put 
the clumsy craft about. "A sail! a sail!" he cried. "Do 
you not see her ? " 

Frere's hungry eyes ranged the dull water in vain. 

" There is no sail, fool ! " he said. " You mock us ! " 

The boat, no longer following the line of coast, was running 
nearly due south, straight into the great Southern Ocean. 
Frere tried to wrest the thong from the hand of the convict, 
and bring the boat back to her course. " Are you mad," he 
asked, in fretful terror, " to run us out to sea ? " 

"Sit down !" returned the other, with a menacing gesture, 
and staring across the grey water. " I tell you I see a 
sail ! " 

Frere, overawed by the strange light which gleamed in the 
eyes of his companion, shifted sulkily back to his place. "Have 



iS2 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



your own way," he said, "madman ! It serves me right for 
putting off to sea in such a devil's craft as this ! " 

After all, what did it matter ? As well be drowned in mid- 
ocean as in sight of land. 

The long day wore out, and no sail appeared. The wind 
freshened towards evening, and the boat, plunging clumsily on 
the long brown waves, staggered as though drunk with the 
water she had swallowed, for at one place near the bows the 
water ran in and out as through a slit in a wine-skin. The 
coast had altogether disappeared, and the huge ocean — vast, 
stormy, and threatening — heaved and hissed all around them. 
It seemed impossible that they should live until morning. But 
Rufus Dawes, with his eyes fixed on some object visible alone 
to him, hugged the child in his arms, and drove the quivering 
coracle into the black waste of night and sea. To Frere, sitting 
sullenly in the bows, the aspect of this grim immovable figure, 
with its back-blown hair and staring eyes, had in it something 
supernatural and horrible. He began to think that privation 
and anxiety had driven the unhappy convict mad. 

Thinking and shuddering over his fate, he fell — as it seemed 
to him — into a momentary sleep, in the midst of which some 
one called to him. He started up, with shaking knees and 
bristling hair. The day had broken, and the dawn, in one 
long pale streak of sickly saffron, lay low on the left hand. 
Between this streak of saffron-coloured light and the bows of 
the boat gleamed for an instant a white speck. 

"A sail ! a sail ! " cried Rufus Dawes, a wild light gleaming 
in his eyes, and a strange tone vibrating in his voice. " Did I 
not tell you that I saw a sail ? " 

Frere, utterly confounded, looked again, with his heart in his 
mouth, and again did the white speck glimmer. For an instant 
he felt almost safe, and then a blanker despair than before fell 
upon him. From the distance at which she was, it was im- 
possible for the ship to sight the boat. 

" They will never see us ! " he cried. " Dawes — Dawes ! 
Do you hear? They will never see us ! " 

Rufus Dawes started as if from a trance. Lashing the sheet 
to the pole which served as a gunwale, he laid the sleeping 
child by her mother, and tearing up the strip of bark on which 
he had been sitting, moved to the bows of the boat. " They 
will see this I Tear up that board ! So ! Now, place it thus 



AT SEA. 183 

across the bows. Hack off that sapling end ! Now that dry 
twist of osier ! Never mind the boat, man ; we can afford to 
leave her now. Tear off that outer strip of hide ! See the 
wood beneath is dry ! Quick — you are so slow." 

" What are you going to do ? " cried Frere, aghast, as the 
convict tore up all the dry wood he could find, and heaped it 
on the sheet of bark placed on the bows. 

" To make a fire ! See ! " 

Frere began to comprehend. " I have three matches left," 
he said, fumbling, with trembling fingers, in his pocket. " I 
wrapped them in one of the leaves of the book to keep them dry." 

The word "book" was a new inspiration. Rufus Dawes 
seized upon the " English History," which had already done 
such service, tore out the drier leaves in the middle of the 
volume, and carefully added them to the little heap of 
touchwood. 

" Now, steady ! " 

The match was struck and lighted. The paper, after a few 
obstinate curlings, caught fire, and Frere blowing the young 
flame with his breath, the bark began to burn. He piled upon 
the tire all that was combustible, the hides began to shrivel, and 
a great column of black smoke rose up over the sea. 

" Sylvia ! " cried Rufus Dawes, " Sylvia ! My darling ! You 
are saved ! " 

She opened her blue eyes and looked at him, but gave no 
sign of recognition. Delirium had hold of her, and in the hour 
of safety the child had forgotten her preserver. Rufus Dawes, 
overcome by this last cruel stroke of fortune, sat down in the 
stern of the boat, with the child in his arms, speechless. Frere, 
feeding the fire, thought that the chance he had so longed for 
had come. With the mother at the point of death, and the 
child delirious, who could testify to this hated convict's sinful- 
ness ? No one but Mr. Maurice Frere, and Mr. Maurice Frere, 
as commandant of convicts, could not but give up an "absconder" 
to justice. 

The ship changed her course, and came towards this strange 
fire in the middle of the ocean. The boat, the fore part of her 
blazing like a pine torch, could not float above an hour. The 
little group of the convict and the child remained motionless. 
Mrs. Vickcrs was lying senseless, ignorant even of the approach- 
ing succour. 



i8 4 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



The ship — a brig, with American colours flying — came within 
hail of them. Frere could almost distinguish figures on her 
deck. He made his way aft to where Dawes was sitting, un- 
conscious, with the child in his arms, and stirred him roughly 
with his foot. 

" Go forward," he said, in tones of command, " and give the 
child to me." 

Rufus Dawes raised his head, and seeing the approaching 
vessel, awoke to the consciousness of his duty. With a low 
laugh, full of unutterable bitterness, he placed the burden he 
had borne so tenderly in the arms of the lieutenant, and moved 
to the blazing bows. 

***** 

The brig was close upon them. Her canvas loomed lar^e 
and dusky, shadowing the sea. Her wet decks shone in the 
morning sunlight. From her bulwarks peered bearded and 
eager faces, looking with astonishment at this burning boat 
and its haggard company, alone on that barren and stormy 
ocean. 

Frere, with Sylvia in his arms, waited for her.. 



END OF ROOK It. 







BOOK III. 



CHAPTER I. 

A LABOURER IN THE VINEYARD. 

" O OCIETY in Hobart Town, in this year of grace 183R, is, 
y^ my dear lord, composed of very curious elements." So 
ran a passage in the sparkling letter which the Rev. 
Mr. Meekin, newly-appointed chaplain, and seven-days' resident 
in Van Diemen's Land, was carrying to the post-office, for the 
delectation of his patron in England. As the reverend gentle- 
man tripped daintily down the summer street that lay between 
the blue river and the purple mountain, he cast his mild eyes 
hither and thither upon human nature, and the sentence he 
had just penned recurred to him with pleasurable appositeness. 
Elbowed by well-dressed officers of garrison, bowing sweetly 
to well-dressed ladies, shrinking from ill-dressed, ill-odoured 
ticket-of-leave men, or hastening across a street to avoid being 
run down by the hand-carts that, driven by little gangs of grey- 
clothed convicts, rattled and jangled at him unexpectedly from 
behind corners, he certainly felt that the society through which 
he moved was composed of curious elements. Now passed, 
with haughty nose in the air, a newly-imported government 
official, relaxing for an instant his rigidity of demeanour to 
smile languidly at the chaplain whom Governor Sir John 
Franklin delighted to honour ; now swaggered, with coarse 
defiance of gentility and patronage, a wealthy ex-prisoner, 
grown fat on the profits of rum. The population that was 



186 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

abroad on that sunny December afternoon had certainly an 
incongruous appearance to a dapper clergyman lately arrived 
from London, and missing, for the first time in his sleek, easy- 
going life, those social screens which in London civilization 
decorously conceal the frailties and vices of human nature. 
Clad in glossy black, of the most fashionable clerical cut, with 
dandy boots, and gloves of lightest lavender,— a white silk 
overcoat hinting that its wearer was not wholly free from 
sensitiveness to sun and heat, — the Reverend Meekin tripped 
daintily to the post-office, and deposited his letter. Two 
ladies met him as he turned. 

"Mr. Meekin !" 

Mr. Meekin's elegant hat was raised from his intellectual 
brow and hovered in the air, like some courteous black-bird, for 
an instant. "Mrs. Jellicoe ! Mrs. Protherick! My dear 
leddies, this is an unexpected pleasure ! And where, pray, are 
you going on this lovely afternoon ? To stay in the house is 
positively sinful. Ah ! what a climate, — but the Trail of the 
serpent, my dear Mrs. Protherick — the Trail of the serpent — " 
and he sighed. 

" It must be a great trial to you to come to the colony," said 
Mrs. Jellicoe, sympathizing with the sigh. 

Meekin smiled, as a gentlemanly martyr might have smiled. 
" The Lord's work, dear leddies — the Lord's work. I am but 
a poor labourer in the vineyard, toiling through the heat and 
burden of the day." The aspect of him, with his faultless tie, 
his airy coat, his natty boots, and his self-satisfied Christian 
smile, was so unlike a poor labourer toiling through the heat 
and burden of the day, that good Mrs. Jellicoe, the wife of an 
orthodox Comptroller of Convicts' Stores, felt a horrible thrill 
of momentary heresy. " I would rather have remained in 
England," continued Mr. Meekin, smoothing one lavender 
finger with the tip of another, and arching his elegant eyebrows 
in mild deprecation of any praise of his self-denial, " but I felt 
it my duty not to refuse the offer made me through the kind- 
ness of his lordship. Here is a field, leddies — a field for the 
Christian pastor. They appeal to me, leddies, these lambs 
of our Church — these lost and outcast lambs of our Church." 

Mrs. Jellicoe shook her gay bonnet ribbons at Mr. Meekin, 
with a hearty smile. " You don't know our convicts," she 
said (from the tone of her jolly voice, it might have been " our 



A LABOURER IN THE VINEYARD. 1S7 



cattle"). " They are horrible creatures. And as for servants — 
my goodness, I have a fresh one every week. When you have 
been here a little longer, you will know them better, Mr. 
Meekin." 

" They are quite unbearable at times," said Mrs. Protherick, 
the widow of a Superintendent of Convicts' Barracks, with 
a stately indignation mantling in her sallow cheeks. " I am 
ordinarily the most patient creature breathing, but I do confess 
that the stupid, vicious wretches that one gets are enough to 
put a saint out of temper." 

" We have all our crosses, dear leddies — all our crosses," said 
Mr. Meekin piously. " Heaven send us strength to bear them ! 
c7<w/-morning." 

"Why, you are going our way," said Mrs. Jellicoe. "We 
can walk together." 

" Delighted ! I am going to call on Major Vickers." 

" And I live within a stone's throw," returned Mrs. Protherick. 
" What a charming little creature she is, isn't she ?" 

" Who? " asked Mr. Meekin, as they walked. 

" Sylvia. You don't know her ! Oh, a dear little thing." 

" I have only met Major Vickers at Government House," 
Lid Meekin. "I haven't yet had the pleasure of seeing his 
i! Lughter." 

" A sad thing," said Mrs. Jellicoe. " Quite a romance, if it 
was not so sad, you know. His wife, poor Mrs. Vickers." 

"Indeed! What of her?" asked Meekin, bestowing a 
condescending bow on a passer-by. "Is she an invalid?" 

" She is dead, poor soul," returned jolly Mrs. Jellicoe, with 
a fat sigh. " You don't mean to say you haven't heard the 
story, Mr. Meekin?" 

" My dear leddies, I have only been in Hobart Town a week, 
and I have not heard the story." 

" It's about the mutiny, you know, the mutiny at Macquarie 
Harbour. The prisoners took the ship, and put Mrs. Vickers 
and Sylvia ashore somewhere. Captain Frere was with them, 
too. The poor things had a dreadful time, and nearly died. 
Captain Frere made a boat at last, and they were picked 
up by a ship. Poor Mrs. Vickers only lived a few hours, and 
little Sylvia — she was only twelve years old then — was quite 
light-headed. They thought she wouldn't recover." 

" How dreadful ! And has she recovered ? " 



HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



" Oh yes, she's quite strong now, but her memory's gone." 

"Her memory ?" 

" Yes," struck in Mrs. Protherick, eager to have a share in 
the story-telling. " She doesn't remember anything about the 
three or four weeks they were ashore — at least, not distinctly." 

" It's a great mercy ! " interrupted Mrs. Jellicoe, determined 
to keep the post of honour. " Who wants her to remember 
these horrors ? From Captain Frere's account, it was posi- 
tively awful ! " 

"You don't say so!" said Mr. Meekin, dabbing his nose 
with a dainty handkerchief. 

"A 'bolter' — that's what we call an escaped prisoner, Mr. 
Meekin — happened to be left behind, and he found them out, 
and insisted on sharing the provisions — the wretch ! Captain 
Frere was obliged to watch him constantly for fear he should 
murder them. Even in the boat he tried to run them out to 
sea and escape. He was one of the worst men in the Harbour, 
they say ; but you should hear Captain Frere tell the story." 

"And where is he now ?" asked Mr. Meekin, with interest. 

" Captain Frere ? " 

" No, the prisoner." 

" Oh, goodness, I don't know — at Port Arthur, I think. I 
Know that he was tried for bolting, and would have been hanged 
but for Captain Frere's exertions." 

" Dear, dear ! a strange story, indeed," said Mr. Meekin. 
"And so the young lady doesn't know anything about it? " 

" Only what she has been told, of course, poor dear. She's 
engaged to Captain Frere." 

" Really ! To the man who saved her. How charming — 
quite a romance ! " 

" Isn't it ? Everybody says so. And Captain Frere's so 
much older than she is." 

" But her girlish love clings to her heroic protector," said 
Meekin, mildly poetical. " Remarkable and beautiful. Quite 
the — hem ! — the ivy and the oak, dear leddies. Ah, in our 
fallen nature, what sweet spots — I think this is the gate." 

A smart convict-servant — he had been a pickpocket of note 
in days gone by — left the clergyman to repose in a handsomely 
furnished drawing-room, whose sun-blinds revealed a wealth of 
bright garden flecked with shadows, while he went in search of 



A LABOURER IN THE VINEYARD. 189 

Miss Vickcrs. The Major was out, it seemed, his duties as 
Superintendent of Convicts rendering such absences necessary ; 
but Miss Vickers was in the garden, and could be called in at 
once. The Reverend Meekin, wiping his heated brow, and 
pulling down his spotless wristbands, laid himself back on the 
soft sofa, soothed by the elegant surroundings no less than by 
the coolness of the atmosphere. Having no better comparison 
at hand, he compared this luxurious room, with its soft couches, 
brilliant flowers, and opened piano, to the chamber in the house 
of a West India planter, where all was glare and heat and 
barbarism without, and all soft and cool and luxurious within. 
He was so charmed with this comparison— he had a knack of 
being easily pleased with his own thoughts — that he commenced 
to turn a fresh sentence for the Bishop, and to sketch out an 
elegant description of the oasis in his desert of a vineyard. 
While at this occupation, he was disturbed by the sound of 
voices in the garden ; and it appeared to him that some one 
near at hand was sobbing and crying. Softly stepping on the 
broad verandah, he saw, on the grass-plot, two persons, an old 
man and a young girl. The sobbing proceeded from the old man. 

" 'Deed, Miss, it's the truth, on my sowl. I've but jest come 
back to ycz this morning. O my ! but it's a cruel thrick to 
play an ould man." 

He was a white-haired old fellow, in a grey suit of convict 
frieze, and stood leaning with one veiny hand upon the pedestal 
of a vase of roses. 

" But it is your own fault, Danny ; we all warned you against 
her," said the young girl, softly. 

" Sure ye did. But oh ! how did I think it, Miss ? 'Tis the 
m cond time she served me so." 

" How long was it this time, Danny?" 

" Six months, miss. She said I was a drunkard, and beat 
her. Beat her, God help me ! " stretching forth two trembling 
hands. " And they believed her, o' coorse. Now, when I kem 
back, there's me little place all thrampled by the boys, and 
she's away wid a ship's captain, saving your presence, miss, 
dhrinking in the George the Fourth. O my, but it's hard on 
an ould man ! " and he fell to sobbing again. 

The girl sighed. " I can do nothing for you, Danny. I dare 
say you can work about the garden as you did before. I'll 
speak to the Major when he comes home." 



rco HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

Danny, lifting his bleared eyes to thank her, caught sight of 
Mr. Meekin, and saluted abruptly. Miss Vickers turned, and 
Mr. Meekin, bowing his apologies, became conscious that the 
young lady was about seventeen years of age, that her eyes 
were large and soft, her hair plentiful and bright, and that the 
hand which held the little book she had been reading was white 
and small. 

" Miss Vickers, I think. My name is Meekin — the Reverend 
Arthur Meekin." 

"How do you do, Mr. Meekin ?" said Sylvia, putting out one 
of her small hands, and looking straight at him. " Papa will 
be in directly." 

" His daughter more than compensates for his absence, my 
dear Miss Vickers." 

" I don't like flattery, Mr. Meekin, so don't use it. At least," 
she added, with a delicious frankness, that seemed born of her 
very brightness and beauty, " not that sort of flattery. Young 
girls do like flattery, of course. Don't you think so?" 

This rapid attack quite disconcerted Mr. Meekin, and he 
could only bow and smile at the self-possessed young lady. 
" Go into the kitchen, Danny, and tell them to give you some 
tobacco. Say /sent you. Mr. Meekin, won't you come in ?" 

"A strange old gentleman that, Miss Vickers. A faithful 
retainer, I presume ? " 

"An old convict servant of ours," said Sylvia. "He was 
with papa many years ago. He has got into trouble lately, 
though, poor old man." 

"Into trouble?" asked Mr. Meekin, as Sylvia took off her 
hat. 

" On the roads, you know. That's what they call it here. 
He married a free woman much younger than himself, and she 
makes him drink, and then gives him in charge for insubordina- 
tion." 

" For insubordination ! Pardon me, my dear young lady, 
did I understand you rightly ? '' 

" Yes, insubordination. He is her assigned servant, you 
know," said Sylvia, as if such a condition of things was the 
most ordinary in the world ; " and if he misbehaves himself, 
she sends him back to the road-gang." 

The Reverend Mr. Meekin opened his mild eyes very wide 
indeed. " What an extraordinary anomaly ! I am beginning, 



A LABOURER IN THE VINEYARD. 191 

my dear Miss Vickers, to find myself indeed at the anti- 
podes." 

" Society here is different from society in England, I believe. 
Most new arrivals say so," returned Sylvia, quietly. 

" But for a wife to imprison her husband, my dear young 
lady ! ". 

" She can have him flogged if she likes. Danny has been 
flogged. But then his wife is a bad woman. He was very silly 
to marry her ; but you can't reason with an old man in love, 
Mr. Meekin." 

Mr. Meekin's Christian brow had grown crimson, and his 
decorous blood tingled to his finger-tips. To hear a young lady 
talk in such an open way, was terrible. Why, in reading the 
Decalogue from the altar, Mr. Meekin was accustomed to 
soften one indecent prohibition, lest its uncompromising plain- 
ness of speech might offend the delicate sensibilities of his 
female souls! He turned from the dangerous theme without an 
instant's pause, for wonder at the strange power accorded to 
Hobart Town "free" wives. 

" You have been reading ? " 

"' Paul et Virginie.' I have read it before in English." 

" Ah, you read French, then, my dear young lady ? " 

" Not very well. I had a master for some months, but papa 
had to send him back to the gaol again. He stole a silver 
tankard out of the dining-room." 

" A French master ! Stole ! " 

" He was a prisoner, you know. A clever man. He wrote 
for the ' London Magazine.' I have read his writings. Some 
of them are quite above the average." 

"And how did he come to be transported?" asked Mr. 
Meekin, feeling that his vineyard was getting larger than he 
had anticipated. 

" Poisoning his niece, I think, but I forget the particulars. 
He was a gentlemanly man, but, oh, such a drunkard ! " 

Mr. Meekin, more astonished than ever at this strange 
country, where beautiful young ladies talked of poisoning and 
flogging as matters of little moment, where wives imprisoned 
their husbands, and murderers taught French, perfumed the air 
with his cambric handkerchief in silence. 

" You have not been here long, Mr. Meekin," said Sylvia, 
after a pause. 



192 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

" No, only a week ; and I confess I am surprised. A lovely 
climate, but, as I said just now to Mrs. Jellicoe, the Trail of the 
Serpent — the Trail of the Serpent — my dear young lady." 

"If you send all the wretches in England, here, you must 
expect the trail of the serpent," said Sylvia. " It isn't the fault 
of the colony." 

" Oh, no ; certainly not," returned Meekin, hastening to 
apologize. " But it is very shocking." 

" Well, you gentlemen should make it better. I don't know 
what the penal settlements are like, but the prisoners in the 
town have not much inducement to become good men." 

"They have the beautiful Liturgy of our Holy Church read 
to them twice every week, my clear young lady," said Mr. 
Mcckin, as though he should solemnly say, "if that doesn't 
reform them, what will ? " 

" Oh, yes," returned Sylvia, " they have that, certainly ; but 
that is only on Sundays. But don't let us talk about this, Mr. 
Meekin," she added, pushing back a stray curl of golden hair. 
" Papa says that I am not to talk about these things, because 
they are all done according to the Rules of the Service, as he 
calls it." 

<! An admirable notion of papa's," said Meekin, much relieved 
as the door opened, and Vickers and Frere entered. 

Vickers's hair had grown white, but Frere carried his thirty 
years as easily as some men carry two-and-twenty. 

" My dear Sylvia," began Vickers, " here's an extraordinary 
thing !" and then, becoming conscious of the presence of the 
agitated Meekin, he paused. 

"You know Mr. Meekin, papa?" said Sylvia. " Mr. Meekin, 
Captain Frere." 

" I have that pleasure," said Vickers. " Glad to see you, sir. 
Pray sit down." Upon which, Mr. Meekin beheld Sylvia un- 
affectedly kiss both gentlemen ; but became strangely aware 
that the kiss bestowed upon her father was warmer than that 
which greeted her affianced husband. 

" Warm weather, Mr. Meekin," said Frere. " Sylvia, my 
darling, I hope you have not been out in the heat. You have ! 
My dear, I've begged you " 

" It's not hot at all," said Sylvia, pettishly. " Nonsense ! 
I'm not made of butter — I sha'n't melt. Thank you, dear, you 
needn't pull the blind down." And then, as though angry with 



A LABOURER IN THE VINEYARD. 193 

herself for her anger, she added, " You are always thinking of 
me, Maurice," and gave him her hand affectionately. 

" It's very oppressive, Captain Frere," said Meekin ; " and to 
a stranger, quite enervating." 

" Have a glass of wine," said Frere, as if the house was his 
own. " One wants bucking up a bit a day like this." 

" Ay, to be sure," repeated Vickers. " A glass of wine. 
Sylvia dear, some sherry. I hope she has not been attacking 
you with her strange theories, Mr. Meekin ? " 

"Oh, dear no ; not at all," returned Meekin, feeling that this 
charming young lady was regarded as a creature who was not 
to be judged by ordinary rules. " We got on famously, my 
dear Major — quite famously." 

" That's right," said Vickers,. " She is very plain-spoken, is 
my little girl, and strangers can't understand her sometimes. 
Can they, Poppet ? " 

Poppet tossed her head saucily. " I don't know," she said. 
" Why shouldn't they ? But you were going to say something 
extraordinary when you came in. What is it, dear? " 

" Ah," said Vickers with grave face. " Yes, a most extra- 
ordinary thing. They've caught those villains." 

"What, you don't mean ? No, papa!" said Sylvia, 

turning round with alarmed face. 

In that little family there were, for conversational purposes, 
but one set of villains in the world — the mutineers of the* 
Osprcy. 

" They've got four of them in the bay at this moment — Rex, 
Parker, Shiers, and Lesly. They are on board the Lady Jane. 
The most extraordinary story I ever heard in my life. The 
fellows got to China and passed themselves off as shipwrecked 
sailors. The merchants in Canton got up a subscription, and 
sent them to London. They were recognized there by old 
Pine, who had been surgeon on board the ship they came 
out in." 

Sylvia sat down on the nearest chair, with heightened colour. 
" And where are the others ? " 

" Two were executed in England ; the other six have not 
been taken. These fellows have been sent out for trial." 

"To what are you alluding, dear sir?" asked Meekin, eyeing 
the sherry with the gaze of a fasting saint. 

" The piracy of a convict brig five years ago," replied Vickers. 

13 



194 MS NATURAL LIFE. 

" The scoundrels put my poor wife and child ashore, and left 
them to starve. If it hadn't been for Frere — God bless him ! — 
they would have died. They shot the pilot and a soldier — and 
— but it's a long story to tell now." 

" I have heard of it already," said Meekin, sipping the sherry, 
which another convict servant had brought for him; "and of 
your gallant conduct, Captain Frere." 

" Oh, that's nothing," said Frere, reddening. " We were all 
in the same boat. Poppet, have a glass of wine ? " 

" No," said Sylvia, " I don't want any." 

She was staring at the strip of sunshine between the verandah 
and the blind, as though the bright light might enable her to 
remember something. "What's the matter?" asked Frere, 
bending over her. 

" I was trying to recollect, but I can't, Maurice. It is all 
confused. I only remember a great shore and a great sea, and 
two men, one of whom — that's you, dear — carried me in his 
arms." 

" Dear, dear," said Mr. Meekin. 

" She was quite a baby," said Vickers, hastily, as though un- 
willing to admit that her illness had been the cause of her 
forgetfulness. 

" Oh, no ; I was twelve years old," said Sylvia ; "that's not 
a baby, you know. But I think the fever made me stupid." 

Frere, looking at her uneasily, shifted in his seat. " There, 
don't think about it now," he said. 

"Maurice," asked she suddenly, "what became of the other 
man ? " 

"Which other man?" 

" The man who was with us ; the other one, you know." 

" Poor Bates ? " 

" No, not Bates. The prisoner. What was his name ? " 

"Oh,, ah — the prisoner," said Frere, as if he, too, had for- 
gotten. "Why, you know, darling, he was sent to Port 
Arthur." 

" Ah ! " said Sylvia, with a shudder. " And is he there 
still ? " 

" I believe so," said Frere, with a frown. 

" By-the-bye," said Vickers, " I suppose we shall have to get 
that fellow up for the trial. We have to identify the villains." 

" Can't you and I do that ? " asked Frere, uneasily. 



A LABOURER IN THE VINEYARD. 195 



" I am afraid not. I wouldn't like to swear to a man after 
five years." 

" By George," said Frere, " I'd swear to him ! When once 
I see a man's face — that's enough for me." 

"We had better get up a few prisoners who were at the 
Harbour at the time," said Vickers, as if wishing to terminate 
the discussion. " I wouldn't let the villains slip through my 
fingers for anything." 

" And are the men at Port Arthur old men ? " asked Meekin . 

" Old convicts," returned Vickers. " It's our place for 
'colonial sentence' men. The worst we have are there. It 
has taken the place of Macquarie Harbour. What excitement 
there will be among them when the schooner goes down on 
Monday ! " 

" Excitement 1 Indeed? How charming I Why?" asked 
Meekin. 

"To bring up the witnesses, my dear sir. Most of the 
prisoners are Lifers, you see, and a trip to Hobart Town is 
like a holiday for them." 

"And do they never leave the place when sentenced for 
life ? " said Meekin, nibbling a biscuit. " How distressing ! " 

" Never, except when they die," answered Frere, with a 
laugh; "and then they are buried on an island. Oh, it's a 
fine place ! You should come down with me and have a look 
at it, Mr. Meekin. Picturesque, I can assure you." 

" My dear Maurice," says Sylvia, going to the piano, as if in 
protest to the turn the conversation was taking, " how can you 
talk like that ? " 

" I should much like to see it," said Meekin, still nibbling, 
"for Sir John was saying something about a chaplaincy there, 
and I understand that the climate is quite endurable." 

The convict servant, who had entered with some official paper 
for the Major, stared at the dainty clergyman, and rough 
Maurice laughed again. "Oh, it's a stunning climate," he 
said ; " and nothing to do. Just the place for you. There's a 
regular little colony there. All the scandals in Van Diemen's 
Land are hatched at Port Arthur." 

This agreeable chatter about scandal and climate seemed a 
strange contrast to the grave-yard island and the men who 
were prisoners for life. Perhaps Sylvia thought so, for she 
struck a few chords, which, compelling the party, out of sheer 



i 9 6 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



politeness, to cease talking for the moment, caused the con- 
versation to flag, and hinted to Mr. Meekin that it was time 
for him to depart. 

" Good afternoon, dear Miss Vickers," he said, rising with 
his sweetest smile. "Thank you for your delightful music. 
That piece is an old, old favourite of mine. It was quite a 
favourite of dear Lady Jane's, and the Bishop's. Pray excuse 
me, my dear Captain Frere, but this strange occurrence— of 
the capture of the wreckers, you know — must be my apology 
for touching on a delicate subject. How charming to contem- 
plate ! Yourself and your dear young lady ! The preserved 
and preserver, dear Major. ' None but the brave, you know, 
none but the brave, none but the brave, deserve the fair ! ' 
You remember glorious John, of course. Well, good after- 
noon." 

" It's rather a long invitation," said Vickers, always well 
disposed to anyone who praised his daughter, " but if you've 
nothing better to do, come and dine with us on Christmas Day, 
Mr. Meekin. We usually have a little gathering then." 

" Charmed," said Meekin—" charmed, I am sure. It is so 
refreshing to meet with persons of one's own tastes in this 
delightful colony. ' Kindred souls together knit,' you know, 
dear Miss Vickers. Indeed yes. Once more— good after- 
noon." 

Sylvia burst into laughter as the door closed. "What a 
ridiculous creature!" said she. "Bless the man, with his 
gloves and his umbrella, and his hair and his scent ! Fancy 
that mincing noodle showing me the way to Heaven ! I'd 
rather have old Mr. Bowes, papa, though he is as blind as a 
beetle, and makes you so angry by bottling up his trumps as 
you call it." 

" My dear Sylvia," said Vickers, seriously, " Mr. Meekin is a 
clergyman, you know." 

" Oh, I know," said Sylvia, " but then, a clergyman can talk 
like a man, can't he ? Why do they send such people here ? 
I am sure they could do much better at home. Oh, by the 
way, papa dear, poor old Danny's come back again. I told 
him he might go into the kitchen. May he, dear?" 

" You'll have the house full of these vagabonds, you little 
puss," said Vickers, kissing her. " I suppose I must let him 
stay. What has he been doing now?" 



SARAH PURFOY'S REQUEST. 197 

"His wife," said Sylvia, "locked him up, you know, for 
being drunk. Wife ! What do people want with wives, I 
wonder." 

"Ask Maurice !" said her father, smiling. 

Sylvia moved away, and tossed her head. 

"What does he know about it? Maurice, you are a great 
bear ; and if you hadn't saved my life, you know, I shouldn't 
love you a bit. There, you may kiss me " (her voice grew 
softer). " This convict business has brought it all back ; and 
I should be ungrateful if I didn't love you, dear." 

Maurice Frere, with suddenly crimsoned face, accepted 
the proffered caress, and then turned away to the window. A 
grey-clothed man was working in the garden, and whistling as 
he worked. " They're not so badly off," said Frere, under his 
breath. 

" What's that, sir ? " asked Sylvia. 

"That I am not half good enough for you," cried Frere, with 
sudden vehemence. " I — I " 

" It's my happiness you've got to think of, Captain Bruin," said 
the girl. " You've saved my life, haven't you, and I should be 
wicked if I didn't love you ! No, no more kisses," she added, 
putting out her hand. "Come, papa, it's cool now, let's walk 
in the garden, and leave Maurice to think of his own 
unworthiness." 

Maurice watched the retreating pair with a puzzled expres- 
sion. " She always leaves me for her father," he said to him- 
self. " I wonder if she really loves me, or if it's only gratitude, 
after all ? " 

He had often asked himself the same question during the five 
years of his wooing, but he had never satisfactorily answered it. 



CHAPTER II. 

SARAH PURFOY'S REQUEST. 



THE evening passed as it had passed a hundred times be- 
fore ; and having smoked a pipe at the barracks, Captain 
Frere returned home. His home was a cottage on the New 
Town road a cottage which he had occupied since his appoint- 



HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



ment as Assistant Police Magistrate, an appointment given to 
him as a reward for his exertions in connection with the Osprey 
mutiny. Captain Maurice Frere had risen in life. Quartered 
in Hobart Town, he had assumed a position in society, and had 
held several of those excellent appointments which in the year 
1834 were bestowed upon officers of garrison. He had been 
Superintendent of Works at Bridgewater, and when he got his 
captaincy, Assistant Police Magistrate at Bothwell. The affair 
of the Osprey made a noise ; and it was tacitly resolved that the 
first "good thing" that fell vacant should be given to the gallant 
preserver of Major Vickers's child. 

Major Vickers also prospered. He had always been a care- 
ful man, and having saved some money, had purchased land on 
favourable terms. The " assignment system " enabled him to 
cultivate portions of it at a small expense, and, following the 
usual custom, he stocked his run with cattle and sheep. He 
had sold his commission, and was now a comparatively wealthy 
man. He owned a fine estate ; the house he lived in was pur- 
chased property. He was in good odour at Government House, 
and his office of Superintendent of Convicts caused him to take 
an active part in that local government which keeps a man 
constantly before the public. Major Vickers, a colonist against 
his will, had become, by force of circumstances, one of the lead- 
ing men in Van Diemen's Land. His daughter was a good 
match for any man ; and many ensigns and lieutenants, cursing 
their hard lot in "country quarters," many sons of settlers living 
on their fathers' station among the mountains, and many dapper 
clerks on the civil establishment, envied Maurice Frere his good 
fortune. Some went so far as to say that the beautiful daughter 
of " Regulation Vickers " was too good for the coarse red-faced 
Frere, who was noted for his fondness for low society, and over- 
bearing, almost brutal demeanour. No one denied, however, 
that Captain Frere was a valuable officer. It was said that, in 
consequence of his tastes, he knew more about the tricks of con- 
victs than any man on the island. It was said, even, that he 
was wont to disguise himself, and mix with the pass-holders and 
convict servants, in order to learn their signs and mysteries. 
When in charge at Bridgewater it had been his delight to rate 
the chain-gangs in their own hideous jargon, and to astound a 
new comer by his knowledge of his previous history. The con- 
vict population hated and cringed to him, for, with his brutality 



SARAH PURFOTS REQUEST. 199 

and violence, he mingled a ferocious good humour, that resulted 
sometimes in tacit permission to go without the letter of the law. 
Yet, as the convicts themselves said, "a man was never safe 
with the Captain ; " for, after drinking and joking with them, as 
the Sir Oracle of some public-house whose hostess he delighted 
to honour, he would disappear through a side door just as the 
constables burst in at the back, and show himself as remorse- 
less, in his next morning's sentence of the captured, as if he had 
never entered a tap-room in all his life. His superiors called 
this " zeal ; " his inferiors " treachery." For himself, he laughed. 
" Everything is fair to those wretches," he was accustomed to 
say. 

As the time for his marriage approached, however, he had in 
a measure given up these exploits, and strove, by his demeanour, 
to make his acquaintances forget several remarkable scandals 
concerning his private life, for the promulgation of which he 
once cared little. When Commandant at the Maria Island, 
and for the first two years after his return from the unlucky ex- 
pedition to Macquarie Harbour, he had not suffered any fear of 
society's opinion to restrain his vices, but, as the affection for 
the pure young girl, who looked upon him as her saviour from 
a dreadful death, increased in honest strength, he had resolved 
to shut up those dark pages in his colonial experience, and to 
read therein no more. He was not remorseful, he was not 
even disgusted. He merely came to the conclusion that, when 
a man married, he was to consider certain extravagances com- 
mon to all bachelors as at an end. He had " had his fling, like 
all young men ; " perhaps he had been foolish like most young 
men, but no reproachful ghost of past misdeeds haunted him. 
His nature was too prosaic to admit the existence of such phan- 
toms. Sylvia, in her purity and excellence, was so far above 
him, that in raising his eyes to her, he lost sight of all the sordid 
creatures to whose level he had once debased himself, and had 
come in part to regard the sins he had committed, before his 
redemption by the love of this bright young creature, as evil 
done by him under a past condition of existence, and for the 
consequences of which he was not responsible. One of the 
consequences, however, was very close to him at this moment. 
His convict servant had, according to his instructions, sat up 
for him, and as he entered, the man handed him a letter, bear- 
ing a superscription in a female hand. 



HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



"Who brought this?" asked Frere, hastily tearing it open to 
read. 

" The groom, sir. He said that there was a gentleman at the 
' George the Fourth ' who wished to see you." 

Frere smiled, in admiration of the intelligence which had 
dictated such a message, and then frowned, in anger at the 
contents of the letter. " You needn't wait," he said to the man. 
" I shall have to go back again, I suppose." Changing his 
forage cap for a soft hat, and selecting a stick from a mis- 
cellaneous collection in a corner, he prepared to retrace his 
steps. " What does she want now ? " he asked himself fiercely, 
as he strode down the moonlit road ; but beneath the fierceness 
there was an under current of petulance, which implied that, 
whatever " she " did want, she had a right to expect. 

J The " George the Fourth " was a long, low house, situated in 
Elizabeth-street. Its front was painted a dull red, and the 
narrow panes of glass in its windows, and the ostentatious 
affectation of red curtains and homely comfort, gave to it a 
spurious appearance of old English jollity. A knot of men 
round the door melted into air as Captain Frere approached, 
for it was now past eleven o'clock, and all persons found in 
the streets after eight could be compelled to " show their pass " 
or explain their business. The convict constables were not 
scrupulous in the exercise of their duty, and the bluff figure of 
P'rere, clad in the blue serge which he affected as a summer 
costume, looked not unlike that of a convict constable. 

Pushing open the side-door with the confident manner of one 
well acquainted with the house, Frere entered, and made his 
way along a narrow passage, to a glass^door at the further end. 
A tap upon this door brought a white-faced, pock-pitted Irish 
girl, who curtsied with servile recognition of the visitor, and 
ushered him upstairs. The room into which he was shown 
was a large one. It had three windows looking into the street, 
and'' was handsomely furnished. The carpet was soft, the 
candles were bright, and the supper tray gleamed invitingly 
from a table between the windows. As Frere entered, a little 
terrier ran barking to his feet. It was evident that he was not 
a constant visitor. The rustle of a silk dress behind the terrier 
betrayed the presence of a woman ; and Frere, rounding the 
promontory of an ottoman, found himself face to face with 
Sarah Purfoy. 



SARAH PURFOY'S REQUEST. 



" Thank you for coming," she said. " Pray, sit down." 

This was the only greeting that passed between them, and 
Frere sat down, in obedience to a motion of a plump hand that 
twinkled with rings. 

The eleven years that had passed since we last saw this 
woman had dealt gently with her. Her foot was as small and 
her hand as white as of yore. Her hair, bound close about her 
head, was plentiful and glossy, and her eyes had lost none of 
their dangerous brightness. Her figure was coarser, and the 
white arm that gleamed through a muslin sleeve showed an 
outline that a fastidious artist might wish to modify. The 
most noticeable change was in her face. The cheeks owned 
no longer that delicate purity which they once boasted, but 
had become thicker, while here and there showed those faint 
red streaks— as though the rich blood throbbed too painfully 
in the veins — which are the first signs of the decay of " fine " 
women. With middle age and the fulness of figure to which 
most women of her temperament are prone, had come also that 
indescribable vulgarity of speech and manner which habitual 
absence of moral restraint never fails to produce. 

Maurice Frere spoke first ; he was anxious to bring his visit 
to as speedy a termination as possible. " What do you want 
of me ? " he asked. 

Sarah Purfoy laughed ; a forced laugh, that sounded so 
unnatural, that Frere turned to look at her. " I want you to 
do me a favour — a very great favour ; that is if it will not 
put you out of the way." 

"What do you mean ?" asked Frere roughly, pursing his lips 
with a sullen air. "Favour ! What do you call this?''' striking 
the sofa on which he sat. " Isn't this a favour ? What do you 
call your precious house and all that's in it ? Isn't that ■a favour ? 
What do you mean ? " 

To his utter astonishment the woman replied by shedding 
tears. For some time he regarded her in silence, as if unwilling 
to be softened by such shallow device, but eventually felt con- 
strained to say something. " Have you been drinking again ?" 
he asked, " or what's the matter with you ? Tell me what it is 
you want, and have done with it. I don't know what possessed 
me to come here at all." 

Sarah sat upright, and dashed away her tears with one 
passionate hand. 



HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



" I am ill, can't you see, you fool ! " said she. " The news 
has unnerved me. If I have been drinking, what then? It's 
nothing to you, is it ? " 

" Oh, no," returned the other, " it's nothing to me. You are 
the principal party concerned. If you choose to bloat yourself 
with brandy, do it by all means." 

" You don't pay for it, at any rate ! " said she, with quickness 
of retaliation which showed that this was not the only occasion 
on which they had quarrelled. 

"Come," said Frere, impatiently brutal, "get on. I can't 
stop here all night." 

She suddenly rose, and crossed to where he was standing. 

" Maurice, you were very fond of me once." 

" Once," said Maurice. 

" Not so very many years ago." 

" Hang it ! " said he, shifting his arm from beneath her hand, 
" don't let us have all that stuff over again. It was before you 
took to drinking and swearing, and going raving mad with 
passion, any way." 

" Well, dear," said she, with her great glittering eyes belying 
the soft tones of her voice, " I suffered for it, didn't I ? Didn't 
you turn me out into the streets ? Didn't you lash me with your 
whip like a dog? Didn't you put me in gaol for it, eh ? It's 
hard to struggle against you, Maurice." 

The compliment to his obstinacy seemed to please him — 
perhaps the crafty woman intended that it should — and he 
smiled. 

" Well, there ; let old times be old times, Sarah. You haven't 
done badly, after all," and he looked round the well-furnished 
room. " What do you want ? " 

" There was a transport came in this morning." 

" Well ? " 

" You know who was on board her, Maurice ! " 

Maurice brought one hand into the palm of the other with a 
rough laugh. 

" Oh, that's it, is it ! 'Gad, what a flat I was not to think of 
it before ! You want to see him, I suppose ? " 

She came close to him, and, in her earnestness, took his hand. 
" I want to save his life ! " 

" Oh, that be hanged, you know 1 Save his life 1 It can't 
be done," 



SARAH PURFOTS REQUEST. 203 

" You can do it, Maurice." 

"I save John Rex's life?" cried Frere, "Why, you must 
be mad ! " 

" He is the only creature that loves me, Maurice— the only 
man who cares for me. He has done no harm. He only 
wanted to be free — was it not natural? You can save him if 
you like. I only ask for his life. What does it matter to you ? 
A miserable prisoner — his death would be of no use. Let him 
live, Maurice." 

Maurice laughed. " What have I to do with it ? " 

" You are the principal witness against him. If you say that 
he behaved well — and he did behave well, you know : many 
men would have left you to starve— they won't hang him." 

" Oh, won't they ! That won't make much difference." 

" Ah, Maurice, be merciful I" 

She bent towards him, and tried to retain his hand, but he 
withdrew it. 

" You're a nice sort of woman to ask me to help your lover 
— a man who left me on that cursed coast to die, for all he 
cared," he said, with a galling recollection of his humiliation 
of five years back. " Save him ! Confound him, not I ! " 

"Ah, Maurice, you will." She spoke with a suppressed sob 
in her voice. "What is it to you ? You don't care for me now. 
You beat me, and turned me out of doors, though I never did 
you wrong. This man was a husband to me — long, long before 
I met you. He never did you any harm ; he never will. He 
will bless you if you save him, Maurice." 

Frere jerked his head impatiently. " Bless me 1 " he said. 
" I don't want his blessings. Let him swing. Who cares ? " 

Still she -persisted, with tears streaming from her eyes, with 
white arms upraised, on her knees even, catching at his coat/ 
and beseeching him in broken accents. In her wild, fierce 
beauty and passionate abandonment she might have been a 
deserted Ariadne — a suppliant Medea. Anything rather than 
what she was — a dissolute, half-maddened woman, praying for 
the pardon of her convict husband. 

Maurice Frere flung her off with an oath. "Get up !" he 
cried brutally, " and stop that nonsense. I tell you the man's 
as good as dead for all I shall do to save him." 

At this repulse, her pent-up passion broke forth. She sprang 
to her feet, and, pushing back the hair that in her frenzied 



204 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

pleading had fallen about her face, poured out upon him a 
torrent of abuse. " You ! Who are you, that you dare to 
speak to me like that ? His little finger is worth your whole 
body. He is a man, a brave man, not a coward, like you. A 
coward ! Yes, a coward ! a coward ! a coward ! You are 
very brave with defenceless men and weak women. You have 
beaten me until I was bruised black, you cur ; but who ever 
saw you attack a man unless he was chained or bound ? Do 
not I know you ? I have seen you taunt a man at the triangles, 
until I wished the screaming wretch could get loose, and murder 
you as you deserve ! You will be murdered one of these days, 
Maurice Frere — take my word for it. Men are flesh and blood, 
and flesh and blood won't endure the torments you lay on it ! " 

" There, that'll do," says Frere, growing paler. " Don't excite 
yourself." 

" I know you, you brutal coward. I have not been your 
mistress — God forgive me ! — without learning you by heart. 
I've seen your ignorance and your conceit. I've seen the men 
who ate your food and drank your wine laugh at you. I've 
heard what your friends say ; I've heard the comparisons they 
indke. One of your dogs has more brain than you, and twice 
as much heart. And these are the men they send to rule us ! 
Oh, Heaven ! And such an animal as this has life and death 
in his hands ! He may hang, may he? I'll hang with him 
then, and God will forgive me for murder, for I will kill 
you / " 

Frere had cowered before this frightful torrent of rage, but, 
at the scream which accompanied the last words, he stepped 
forward as though to seize her. In her desperate courage, she 
flung herself before him. " Strike me ! You daren't ! I defy 
you ! Bring up the wretched creatures who learn the way to 
Hell in this cursed house, and let them see you do it. Call 
them ! They are old friends of yours. They all know Captain 
Maurice Frere." 

" Sarah ! " 

" You remember Lucy Barnes — poor little Lucy Barnes that 
stole six-pennyworth of calico. She is downstairs now. Would 
you know her if you saw her ? She isn't the bright-faced baby 
she was when they sent her here to ' reform,' and when Lieu- 
tenant Frere wanted a new housemaid from the Factory ! Call 
for her ! — call ! do you hear ? Ask any one of those beasts 



SARAIT PURFOTS REQUEST. 205 

•whom you lash and chain for Lucy Barnes. He'll tell you all 
about her— ay, and about many more — many more poor souls 
that are at the bidding of any drunken brute that has stolen 
a pound note to fee the Devil with ! Oh, you good God 
in Heaven, will you not judge this man ? " 

Frere trembled. He had often witnessed this creature's 
whirlwinds of passion, but never had he seen her so violent as 
this. Her frenzy frightened him. " For Heaven's sake, Sarah, 
be quiet. What is it you want ? What would you do ? " 

" I'll go to this girl you want to marry, and tell her all I 
know of you. I have seen her in the streets — have seen her 
look the other way when I passed her — have seen her gather 
up her muslin skirts when my silks touched her — I that nursed 
her, that heard her say her baby-prayers (O Jesus, pity me !) — 
and I know what she thinks of women like me. She is good 
— and virtuous — and cold. She would shudder at you if she 
knew what I know. Shudder ! She would hate you ! And 
I will tell her ! Ay, I will ! You will be respectable, will you ? 
A model husband ! Wait till I tell her my story, — till I send 
some of these poor women to tell theirs. You kill my love ; 
I'll blight and ruin yours ! " 

Frere caught her by both wrists, and with all his strength 
forced her to her knees. " Don't speak her name," he said in 
a hoarse voice, " or I'll do you a mischief. I know all you 
mean to do. I'm not such a fool as not to see that. Be quiet ! 
Men have murdered women like you, and now I know how 
they came to do it." 

For a few minutes a silence fell upon the pair, and at last, 
Frere, releasing her hands, fell back from her. 

" I'll do what you want, on one condition." 

" What ? " 

" That you leave this place." 

"Where for?" 

" Anywhere — the farther the better. I'll pay your passage to 
Sydney, and you go or stay there as you please." 

She had grown calmer, hearing him thus relenting. " But 
this house, Maurice ? " 

" You are not in debt ? " 

"No." - 

"Well, leave it. It's your own affair, not mine. If I help, 
you must go." 



206 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

"May I see himf" 

" No." 

" Ah, Maurice I " 

" You can see him in the dock if you like," says Frere, with 
a laugh, cut short by a flash of her eyes. "There, I didn't 
mean to offend you." 

" Offend me ! Go on." 

" Listen here," said he doggedly. " If you will go away, and 
promise never to interfere with me or mine by word or deed, 
I'll do what you want." 

" What will you do ? " she asked, unable to suppress a smile 
at the victory she had won. 

" I will not say all I know about this man. I will say he 
befriended me. I will do my best to save his life." 

" You can save it if you like." 

" Well, I will try. On my honour, I will try." 

" I must believe you, I suppose ? " said she, doubtfully ; and 
then, with a sudden pitiful pleading, in strange contrast to her 
former violence, " You are not deceiving me, Maurice ? " 

" No. Why should I ? You keep your promise, and I'll 
keep mine. Is it a bargain ?" 

" Yes." 

He eyed her steadfastly for some seconds, and then turned 
on his heel. As he reached the door she called him back. 
Knowing him as she did, she felt that he would keep his word, 
and her feminine nature could not resist a parting sneer. 

" There is nothing in the bargain to prevent me helping him 
to escape ! " she said with a smile. 

" Escape ! He won't escape again, I'll go bail. Once get 
him in double irons at Port Arthur, and he's safe enough." 

The smile on her face seemed infectious, for his own sullen 
features relaxed. " Good night, Sarah," he said. 

She put out her hand, as if nothing had happened. " Good 
night, Captain Frere. It's a bargain, then ? " 

" A bargain." 

"You have a long walk home. Will you have some 
brandy?" 

" I don't care if I do," he said, advancing to the table, and 
filling his glass. " Here's a good voyage to you ! " 

Sarah Purfoy, watching him, burst into a laugh. "Human 
beings are queer creatures," she said. "Who would have 



THE STORY OF TWO BIRDS OF PREY. 207 

thought that we had been calling each other names just 
now ? I say, I'm a vixen when I'm roused, ain't I, Maurice ?" 

" Remember what you've promised," said he, with a threat in 
his voice, as he moved to the door. " You must be out of this 
by the next ship that leaves." 

" Never fear, I'll go." 

Getting into the cool street directly, and seeing the calm 
stars shining, and the placid water sleeping with a peace in 
which he had no share, he strove to cast off the nervous fear 
that was on him. The interview had frightened him, for it had 
made him think. It was hard that, just as he had turned over 
a new leaf, this old blot should come through to the clean page. 
It was cruel that, having comfortably forgotten the past, he 
should be thus rudely reminded of it. 



1 



CHAPTER III. 
THE STORY OF TWO BIRDS OF PREY. 

T~"*HE reader of the foregoing pages has doubtless asked 
himself, " What is the link which binds together John 
Rex and Sarah Purfoy ? " 
In the year 1825 there lived, at St. Heliers, Jersey, a watch- 
maker, named Urban Purfoy. He was a hard-working man, 
and had amassed a little money — sufficient to give his grand- 
daughter an education above the common in those days. At 
sixteen, Sarah Purfoy was an empty-headed, strong-willed, 
precocious girl, with big brown eyes. She had a bad opinion 
of her own sex, and an immense admiration for the young and 
handsome members of the other. The neighbours said that 
she was too high and mighty for her rank in life. Her grand- 
father said she was a " beauty," and like her poor dear mother. 
She herself thought rather meanly of her personal attractions, 
and rather highly of her mental ones. She was brimful of 
vitality, with strong passions, and little religious sentiment. 
She had not much respect for moral courage, for she did not 
understand it ; but she was a profound admirer of personal 
prowess. Her distaste for the humdrum life she was leading 



208 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

found expression in a rebellion against social usages. She 
courted notoriety by eccentricities of dress, and was never so 
happy as when she was misunderstood. She was the sort of 
girl of whom women say — " It is a pity she has no mother ; " 
and men, " It is a pity she does not get a husband ;" and who 
say to themselves, " When shall I have a lover ?" 

There was no lack of beings of this latter class among the 
officers quartered in Fort Royal and Fort Henry ; but the 
female population of the island was free and numerous, and in 
the embarrassment of riches, Sarah was overlooked. Though 
she adored the soldiery, her first lover was a civilian. Walking 
one day on the cliff, she met a young man. He was tall, well- 
looking, and well-dressed. His name was Lemoine, he was the 
son of a somewhat wealthy resident of the island, and had 
come down from London to recruit his health and to see his 
friends. Sarah was struck by his appearance, and looked back 
at him. He had been struck by hers, and looked back also. 
He followed her, and spoke to her, — some remark about the 
wind or the weather, and she thought his voice divine. They 
got into conversation — about scenery, lonely walks, and the 
dulness of St. Heliers. " Did she often walk there ?" " Some- 
times." "Would she be there to-morrow?" "She might." 
Mr. Lemoine lifted his hat, and went back to dinner, rather 
pleased with himself. 

They met the next day, and the day after that. Lemoine 
was not a gentleman, but he had lived among gentlemen, and 
had caught something of their manner. He said that, after all, 
virtue was a mere name, and that when people were powerful 
and rich, the world respected them more than if they had been 
honest and poor. Sarah agreed with this sentiment. Her 
grandfather was honest and poor, and yet nobody respected him 
—at least, not with such respect as she cared to acknowledge. 
In addition to his talent for argument, Lemoine was handsome 
and had money — he showed her quite a handful of bank-notes 
one day. He told her of London and the great ladies there, 
and hinting that they were not always virtuous, drew himself up 
with a moody air, as though he had been unhappily the cause of 
their fatal lapse into wickedness. Sarah did not wonder at this 
in the least. Had she been a great lady, she would have done 
the same. She began to coquet with this seductive fellow, and 
to hint to him that she had too much knowledge of the world to 



THE STORY OF TWO BIRDS OF PREY. 200 



set a fictitious value upon virtue. He mistook her artfulness 
for innocence, and thought he had made a conquest. More- 
over, the girl was pretty, and when dressed properly, would 
look well. Only one obstacle stood in the way of their loves — 
the dashing profligate was poor. He had been living in 
London above his means, and his father was not inclined to 
increase his allowance. 

Sarah liked him better than anybody else she had seen, but 
there are two sides to every bargain. Sarah Purfoy must go to 
London. In vain her lover sighed and swore. Unless he would 
promise to take her away with him, Diana was not more chaste. 
The more virtuous she grew, the more vicious did Lemoine feel. 
His desire to possess her increased in proportionate ratio to her 
resistance, and at last he borrowed two hundred pounds from 
his father's confidential clerk [the Lemoines were merchants by 
profession], and acceded to her wishes. There was no love on 
either side — vanity was the mainspring of the whole transaction. 
Lemoine did not like to be beaten ; Sarah sold herself for a 
passage to England and an introduction into the "great world." 

We need not describe her career at this epoch. Suffice it to 
say that she discovered that vice is not always conducive to 
happiness, and is not, even in this world, so well rewarded as 
its earnest practice might merit. Sated, and disappointed, she 
soon grew tired of her life, and longed to escape from its weary- 
ing dissipations. At this juncture she fell in love. 

The object of her affections was one Mr. Lionel Crofton. 
Crofton was tall, well made, and with an insinuating address. 
His features were too strongly marked for beauty. His eyes 
were the best part of his face, and, like his hair, they were jet 
black. He had broad shoulders, sinewy limbs, and small hands 
and feet. I lis head was round, and well-shaped, but it bulged 
a little over the ears, which were singularly small, and lay close 
to his head. With this man, barely four years older than 
herself, Sarah, at seventeen, fell violently in love. This was 
the more strange, as though fond of her, he would tolerate no 
caprices, and possessed an ungovernable temper, which found 
vent in curses, and even blows. He seemed to have no pro- 
fession or business, and though he owned a good address, he 
was even less of a gentleman than Lemoine. Yet Sarah, at- 
tracted by one of the strange sympathies which constitute the 
romance of such women's lives, was devoted to him. Touched 

14 



HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



by her affection, and rating her intelligence and unscrupulous- 
ness at their true value, he told her who he was. He was a 
swindler, a forger, and a thief, and his name was John Rex. 
When she heard this she experienced a sinister delight. He 
told her of his plots, his tricks, his escapes, his villanies ; and 
seeing how for years this young man had preyed upon the world 
which had deceived and disowned her, her heart went out to 
him. " I am glad you found me," she said. " Two heads are 
better than one. We will work together." 

John Rex, known among his intimate associates as Dandy 
Jack, was the putative son of a man who had been for many 
years valet to Lord Bellasis, and who retired from the service 
of that profligate nobleman with a sum of money and a wife. 
John Rex was sent to as good a school as could be procured for 
him, and at sixteen was given, by the interest of his mother with 
his father's former master, a clerkship in an old-established 
banking-house. Rex senior was accustomed to talk largely of 
" gentlemen," and " high society." Mrs. Rex was intensely fond 
of her son, and imbued him with a desire to shine in aristocratic 
circles. He was a clever lad, without any principle ; he would 
lie unblushingly, and steal deliberately, if he thought he could 
do so with impunity. He was cautious, acquisitive, imagina- 
tive, self-conceited, and destructive. He had strong perceptive 
faculties, and much invention and versatility, but his " moral 
sense" was almost entirely wanting. He found that his fellow 
clerks were not of that " gentlemanly " stamp which his mother 
thought so admirable, and, therefore, he despised them. He 
thought he should like to go into the army, for he was athletic, 
and rejoiced in feats of muscular strength. To be tied all day 
to a desk was beyond endurance. But John Rex, senior, told 
him to " wait and see what came of it." He did so, and in the 
mean time kept late hours, got into bad company, and forged the 
name of a customer of the bank to a cheque for twenty pounds. 
The fraud was a clumsy one, and was detected in twenty-four 
hours. Forgeries by clerks, however easily detected, are unfor- 
tunately not considered to add to the attractions of a banking- 
house, and the old-established firm decided not to prosecute, 
but dismissed Mr. John Rex from their service. The ex-valet, 
who never liked his legalized son, was at first for turning him 
out of doors, but by the entreaties of his wife, was at last induced 
to place the promising boy in a draper's shop, in the City Road. 



THE STORY OF TWO BIRDS OF PREY. 21 1 

This employment was not a congenial one, and John Rex 
planned to leave it. He lived at home, and had his salary— 
about thirty shillings a week— for pocket money. Though he dis- 
played considerable skill with the cue, and not unfrequently won 
considerable sums for one in his position, his expenses averaged 
more than his income ; and having borrowed all he could, he 
found himself again in difficulties. His narrow escape, how- 
ever, had taught him a lesson, and he resolved to confess all to 
his indulgent mother, and be more economical for the future. 
Just then one of those " lucky chances " which blight so many 
lives occurred. The "shop-walker" died, and Messrs. Baffaty 
& Co. made the gentlemanly Rex act as his substitute for a few 
clays. Shop-walkers have opportunities not accorded to other 
folks, and on the evening of the third day Mr. Rex went home 
with a bundle of lace in his pocket. Unfortunately, he owed 
more than the worth of this petty theft, and was compelled to 
steal again. This time he was detected. One of his fellow- 
shopmen caught him in the very act of concealing a roll of silk, 
ready for future abstraction, and, to his astonishment, cried 
" Halves ! " Rex pretended to be virtuously indignant, but 
soon saw that such pretence was useless ; his companion was 
too wily to be fooled with such affectation of innocence. " I 
saw you take it," said he, " and if you won't share I'll tell old 
Baffaty." This argument was irresistible, and they shared. 
Having become good friends, the self-made partner lent Rex 
a helping hand in the disposal of the booty, and introduced him 
to a purchaser. The purchaser violated all rules of romance by 
being — not a Jew, but a very orthodox Christian. He kept a 
second-hand clothes warehouse in the City Road, and was sup- 
posed to have branch establishments all over London. 

Mr. Blicks purchased the stolen goods for about a third of 
their value, and seemed struck by Mr. Rex's appearance. " I 
thort you was a swell mobsman," said he. This, from one so 
experienced, was a high compliment. Encouraged by success, 
Rex and his companion took more articles of value. John Rex 
paid off his debts, and began to feel himself quite a "gentle- 
man" again. Just as Rex had arrived at this pleasing state of 
mind, Baffaty discovered the robbery. Not having heard about 
the bank business, he did not suspect Rex — he was such a 
gentlemanly young man — but having had his eye for some time 
upon Rex's partner, who was vulgar, and squinted, he sent for. 



HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



him. Rex's partner stoutly denied the accusation, and old 
Baffaty, who was a man of merciful tendencies, and could well 
afford to lose fifty pounds, gave him until the next morning to 
confess, and state where the goods had gone, hinting at the 
persuasive powers of a constable at the end of that time. The 
shopman, with tears in his eyes, came in a hurry to Rex, and 
informed him that all was lost. He did not want to confess, 
because he must implicate his friend Rex, but if he did not 
confess, he would be given in charge. Flight was impossible, 
for neither had money. In this dilemma John Rex remembered 
Blicks's compliment, and burned to deserve it. If he must 
retreat, he would lay waste the enemy's country. His exodus 
should be like that of the Israelites — he would spoil the 
Egyptians. The shopwalker was allowed half an hour in the 
middle of the day for lunch. John Rex took advantage of this 
half-hour to hire a cab and drive to Blicks. That worthy man 
received him cordially, for he saw that he was bent upon great 
deeds. John Rex rapidly unfolded bis plan of operations. The 
warehouse doors fastened with a spring. He would remain 
behind after they were locked, and open them at a given signal. 
A light cart or cab could be stationed in the lane at the back, 
three men could fill it with valuables in as many hours. Did 
Blicks know of three such men? Blicks's one eye glistened. 
He thought he did know. At half-past eleven they should be 
there. Was that all ? No. Mr. John Rex was not going to 
"put up" such a splendid thing for nothing. The booty was 
worth at least .£5,000 if it was worth a shilling — he must have 
;£ioo cash when the cart stopped at Blicks's door. Blicks at 
first refused point blank. Let there be a division, but he would 
not buy a pig in a poke. Rex was firm, however ; it was his 
only chance, and at last he got a promise of £80. That night 
the glorious achievement known in the annals of Bow Street as 
" The Great Silk Robbery" took place, and two days afterwards, 
John Rex and his partner, dining comfortably at Birmingham, 
read an account of the transaction — not in the least like it — in 
a London paper. 

John Rex, who had now fairly broken with dull respectability, 
bid adieu to his home, and began to realize his mother's wishes. 
He was, after his fashion, a " gentleman." As long as the .£80 
lasted, he lived in luxury, and by the time it was spent, he had 
established himself in his profession. This profession was a 



THE STORY OF TWO BIRDS OF PREY. 213 

lucrative one. It was that of a swindler. Gifted with a hand- 
some person, facile manner, and ready wit, he had added to 
these natural advantages some skill at billiards, some know- 
ledge of gamblers' legerdemain, and the useful consciousness 
that he must prey or be preyed on. John Rex was no common 
swindler ; his natural as well as his acquired abilities saved him 
from vulgar errors. He saw that to successfully swindle man- 
kind, one must not aim at comparative, but superlative, in- 
genuity. He who is contented with being only cleverer than 
the majority must infallibly be outwitted at last, and to be once 
outwitted is — for a swindler — to be ruined. Examining, more- 
over, into the history of detected crime, John Rex discovered 
one thing. At the bottom of all these robberies, deceptions, 
and swindles, was some lucky fellow who profited by the folly 
of his confederates. This gave him an idea. Suppose he 
could not only make use of his own talents to rob mankind, but 
utilize those of others also ? Crime runs through infinite grades. 
He proposed to himself to be at the top ; but why should he 
despise those good fellows beneath him ? His specialty was 
swindling, billiard-playing, card-playing, borrowing money, ob- 
taining goods, never risking more than two or three coups in a 
year. But others plundered houses, stole bracelets, watches, 
diamonds, — made as much in a night as he did in six months — 
only their occupation was more dangerous. Now came the 
question — why more dangerous ? Because these men were 
mere clods, bold enough and clever enough in their own rude 
way, but no match for the law, with its Argus eyes and its 
Briarean hands. They did the rougher business well enough ; 
they broke locks, and burst doors, and " neddied " constables, 
but in the finer arts of plan, attack, and escape, they were sadly 
deficient. Good. These men should be the hands ; he would 
be the head. He would plan the robberies ; they should execute 
them. 

Working through many channels, and> never omitting to assist 
a fellow-worker when in distress, John Rex, in a few years, and 
in a most prosaic, business way, became the head of a society 
of ruffians. Mixing with fast clerks and unsuspecting middle- 
class profligates, he found out particulars of houses ill guarded, 
and shops insecurely fastened, tand "put up" Blicks's ready 
ruffians to the more dangerous work. In his various disguises, 
and under his many names, he found his way into those upper 



214 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

circles of " fast " society, where animals tun into birds, where 
a wolf becomes a rook, and a lamb a pigeon. Rich spendthrifts 
who affected male society asked him to their houses, and 
Mr. Anthony Croftonbury, Captain James Craren,and Mr. Lionel 
Crofton were names remembered, sometimes with pleasure, 
oftener with regret, by many a broken man of fortune. He had 
one quality which, to a man of his profession, was invaluable — 
he was cautious, and master of himself. Having made a suc- 
cess, wrung commission from Blicks, rooked a gambling ninny 
like Lemoine, or secured an assortment of jewellery sent down 
to his " wife " in Gloucestershire, he would disappear for a time. 
He liked comfort, and revelled in the sense of security and 
respectability. Thus he had lived for three years when he met 
Sarah Purfoy, and thus he proposed to live for many more. 
With this woman as a coadjutor, he thought he could defy the 
law. She was the net spread to catch his "pigeons ;" she was 
the well-dressed lady who ordered goods in London for her 
husband at Canterbury, and paid half the price down, " which 
was all this letter authorized her to do," and where a less 
beautiful or clever woman might have failed, she succeeded. 
Her husband saw fortune before him, and believed that, with 
common prudence, he might carry on his lucrative employment 
of "gentleman" until he chose to relinquish it. Alas for 
human weakness ! He one day did a foolish thing, and the 
law he had so successfully defied got him in the simplest 
way imaginable. 

Under the names of Mr. and Mrs. Skinner, John Rex and 
Sarah Purfoy were living in quiet lodgings in the neighbourhood 
of Bloomsbury. Their landlady was a respectable poor woman, 
and had a son who was a constable. This son was given to 
talking, and, coming in to supper one night, he told his mother 
that on the following evening an attack was to be made on a 
gang of coiners in the Old Street Road. The mother, dream- 
ing all sorts of horrors during the night, came the next day to 
Mrs. Skinner, in the parlour, and, under a pledge of profound 
secrecy, told her of the dreadful expedition in which her son 
was engaged. John Rex was out at a pigeon-match with Lord 
Bellasis, and when he returned, at nine o'clock, Sarah told him 
what she had heard. 

Now, 4, Bank-place, Old Street Road, was the residence of a 
man named Green, who had for some time carried on the 



-THE NOTORIOUS DAWES." 2iJ 

lucrative but dangerous trade of "counterfeiting." This man 
was one of the most daring of that army of ruffians whose 
treasure chest and master of the mint was Blicks, and his 
liberty was valuable. John Rex, eating his dinner more 
nervously than usual, ruminated on the intelligence, and 
thought it would be but wise to warn Green of his danger. 
Not that he cared much for Green personally, but it was bad 
policy to miss doing a good turn to a comrade, and, moreover, 
Green, if captured, might wag his tongue too freely. But how 
to do it ? If he went to Blicks, it might be too late ; he would 
go himself. He went out — and was captured. When Sarah 
heard of the calamity she set to work to help him. She 
collected all her money and jewels, paid Mrs. Skinner's rent, 
went to sec Rex, and arranged his defence. Blicks was hope- 
ful, but Green — who came very near hanging — admitted that 
the man was an associate of his, and the Recorder, being in a 
severe mood, transported him for seven years. 

Sarah Purfoy vowed that she would follow him. She was 
going as passenger, as emigrant, anything, when she saw Mrs. 
Vickcrs's advertisement for a "lady's-maid," and answered it. 
It chanced that Rex was shipped in the Malabar, and Sarah, 
discovering this before the vessel had been a week at sea, con- 
ceived the bold project of inciting a mutiny for the rescue of 
her lover. We know the result of that scheme, and the story of 
the scoundrel's subsequent escape from Macquarie Harbour. 



CHAPTER IV. 

"the notorious dawes." 



THE mutineers of the Osprey had been long since given 
up as dead, and the story of their desperate escape had 
become indistinct to the general public mind. Now that 
they had been recaptured in a remarkable manner, popular 
belief invested them with all sorts of strange surroundings. 
They had been — according to report — kings over savage 
islanders, chiefs of lawless and ferocious pirates, respectable 
married men in Java, merchants in Singapore, and swindlers 
in Hong Kong. Their adventures had been dramatized at a 



216 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

London theatre, and the popular novelist of that day was 
engaged in a work descriptive of their wondrous fortunes. 

John Rex, the ringleader, was related, it was said, to a noble 
family, and a special message had come out to Sir John 
Franklin concerning him. He had every prospect of being 
satisfactorily hung, however, for even the most outspoken 
admirers of his skill and courage could not but admit that he 
had committed an offence which was death by the law. The 
Crown would leave nothing undone to convict him, and the 
already crowded prison was re-crammed with half a dozen life 
sentence men, brought up from Port Arthur to identify the 
prisoners. Amongst this number was stated to be " the 
notorious Dawes." 

This statement gave fresh food for recollection and invention. 
It was remembered that " the notorious Dawes " was the 
absconder who had been brought away by Captain Frere, and 
who owed such fettered life as he possessed to the fact that 
he had assisted Captain Frere to make the wonderful boat in 
which the marooned party escaped. It was remembered, also, 
how sullen and morose he had been on his trial five years 
before, and how he had laughed when the commutation of his 
death sentence was announced to him. The Hobart Toivn 
Gazette published a short biography of this horrible villain — 
a biography setting forth how he had been engaged in a mutiny 
on board the convict ship, how he had twice escaped from the 
Macquarie Harbour, how he had been repeatedly flogged for 
violence and insubordination, and how he was now double- 
ironed at Port Arthur, after two more ineffectual attempts to 
regain his freedom. Indeed, the Gazette, discovering that the 
wretch had been originally transported for highway robbery, 
argued very ably it would be far better to hang such wild beasts 
in the first instance, than suffer them to cumber the ground, 
and grow confirmed in villainy. "Of what use to society," 
asked the Gazette, quite pathetically, " has this scoundrel been 
during the last eleven years ? " And everybody agreed that 
he had been of no use whatever. 

Miss Sylvia Vickers also received an additional share of 
public attention. Her romantic rescue by the heroic Frere, 
who was shortly to reap the reward of his devotion in the good 
old fashion, made her almost as famous as the villain Dawes, 
or his confederate monster John Rex. It was reported that 



"THE NOTORIOUS DAWES." 217 

she was to give evidence on the trial, together with her 
affianced husband, they being the only two living witnesses 
who could speak to the facts of the mutiny. It was reported 
also that her lover was naturally most anxious that she should 
not give evidence, as she was — an additional point of romantic 
interest — affected deeply by the illness consequent on the suffer- 
ing she had undergone, and in a state of pitiable mental con- 
fusion as to the whole business. These reports caused the 
Court, on the day of the trial, to be crowded with spectators; and 
as the various particulars of the marvellous history of this 
double escape were detailed, the excitement grew more intense. 
The aspect of the four heavily-ironed prisoners caused a sen- 
sation which, in that city of the ironed, was quite novel, and 
bets were offered and taken as to the line of defence which they 
would adopt. At first it was thought that they would throw 
themselves on the mercy of the Crown, seeking, in the very 
extravagance of their story, to excite public sympathy ; but a 
little study of the demeanour of the chief prisoner, John Rex, 
dispelled that conjecture. Calm, placid, and defiant, he seemed 
prepared to accept his fate, or to meet his accusers with some 
plea which should be sufficient to secure his acquittal on the 
capital charge. Only when he heard the indictment, setting 
forth that he had " feloniously pirated the brig Osftrey," he 
smiled a little. 

Mr. Meekin, sitting in the body of the Court, felt his 
religious prejudices sadly shocked by that smile. " A perfect 
wild beast, my dear Miss Vickers," he said, returning, in a 
pause during the examination of the convicts who had been 
brought to identify the prisoner, to the little room where Sylvia 
and her father were waiting. " He has quite a tigerish look 
about him." 

" Poor man 1 " said Sylvia, with a shudder. 
" Poor ! My dear young lady, you do not pity him ? " 
"I do," said Sylvia, twisting her hands together as if in pain. 
" I pity them all, poor creatures." 

"Charming sensibility!" says Meekin, with a glance at 
Vickers. " The true woman's heart, my dear Major." 

The Major tapped his fingers impatiently at this ill-timed 
twaddle. Sylvia was too nervous just then for sentiment. 
" Come here, Poppet," he said, " and look through this door. 
You can see them from here, and if you do not recognize any 



21 8 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

of them, I can't see what is the use of putting you in the box ; 
though, of course, if it is necessary, you must go." 

The raised dock was just opposite to the door of the room in 
which they were sitting, and the four manacled men, each with 
an armed warder behind him, were visible above the heads of 
the crowd. The girl had never before seen the ceremony of 
trying a man for his life, and the silent and antique solemnities 
of the business affected her, as it affects all who see it for the 
first time. The atmosphere was heavy and distressing. The 
chains of the prisoners clanked ominously. The crushing force 
of judge, jailers, warders, and constables assembled to punish 
the four men, appeared cruel. The familiar faces, that in her 
momentary glance, she recognized, seemed to her evilly trans- 
figured. Even the countenance of her promised husband, bent 
eagerly forward towards the witness-box, showed tyrannous 
and bloodthirsty. Her eyes hastily followed the pointing finger 
oi her father, and sought the men in the dock. Two of them 
lounged, sullen and inattentive ; one nervously chewed a straw, 
or piece of twig, pawing the dock with restless hand ; the fourth 
scowled across the Court at the witness-box, which she could 
not see. The four faces were all strange to her. 

"No, papa," she said, with a sigh of relief, "I can't recognize 
them at all." 

As she was turning from the door, a voice from the witness- 
box behind her made her suddenly pale and pause to look 
again. The Court itself appeared, at that moment, affected, 
for a murmur ran through it, and some official cried, 
" Silence ! " 

The notorious criminal, Rufus Dawes, the desperado of Port 
Arthur, the wild beast whom the Gazette had judged not fit to 
live, had just entered the witness-box. He was a man of thirty, 
in the prime of life, with a torso whose muscular grandeur not 
even the ill-fitting yellow jacket could altogether conceal, with 
strong, embrowned, and nervous hands, an upright carriage, 
and a pair of fierce, black eyes that roamed over the Court 
hungrily. 

Not all the weight of the double irons swaying from the 
leathern thong around his massive loins, could mar that ele- 
gance of attitude which comes only from perfect muscular 
development. Not all the frowning faces bent upon him could 
frown an accent of respect into the contemptuous tones in 



"THE NOTORIOUS DAWES. 1 ' 219 

which he answered to his name, " Rufus Dawes, prisoner of 
the Crown." 

"Come away, my darling," said Vickers, alarmed at his 
daughter's blanched face and eager eyes. 

" Wait," she said, impatiently, listening for the voice whose 
owner she could not see. " Rufus Dawes ! Oh, I have heard 
that name before ! " 

" You are a prisoner of the Crown at the penal settlement of 
Port Arthur ? " 

" Yes." 

"For. life?" 

" For life." 

Sylvia turned to her father with breathless inquiry in her 
eyes. " Oh, papa ! who is that speaking ? I know the name ! 
I know the voice ! " 

' ' That is the man who was with you in the boat, dear," says 
Vickers, gravely. " The prisoner." 

The eager light died out of her eyes, and in its place came 
a look of disappointment and pain. " I thought it was a good 
man," she said, holding by the edge of the doorway. " It 
sounded like a good voice." 

And then she pressed her hands over her eyes and shuddered. 
"There, there," says Vickers, soothingly, "don't be afraid, 
Poppet ; he can't hurt you now." 

" No, ha ! ha ! " says Meckin, with great display of off-hand 
courage, " the villain's safe enough now." 

The colloquy in the Court went on. w Do you know the 
piisoners in the dock?" 

" Yes." 

" Who are they ? » 

" John Rex, Henry Shiers, James Lesly, and, and— Pm not 
sure about the last man." 

"You arc not sure about the last man. Will you swear to 
the three others ? " 

" Yes." 

" You remember them well ? " 

"I was in the chain-gang at Macquarie Harbour with them 
for three years." Sylvia, hearing this hideous reason for ac- 
quaintance, gave a low cry, and fell into her father's arms. 

" Oh, papa, take me away ! I feel as if I was going to 
remember something terrible 1 " 



HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



Amid the deep silence that prevailed, the cry of the poor 
girl was distinctly audible in the Court, and all heads turned 
to the door. In the general wonder no one noticed the change 
that passed over Rufus Dawes. His face flushed scarlet, great 
drops of sweat stood on his forehead, and his black eyes glared 
in the direction from whence the sound came, as though they 
would pierce the envious wood that separated him from the 
woman whose voice he had heard. Maurice Frere sprang up 
and pushed his way through the crowd under the bench. 
" What's this ? " he said to Vickers, almost brutally. " What 
did you bring her here for ? She is not wanted. I told you 
that." 

" I considered it my duty, sir," says Vickers, with stately 
rebuke. 

"What has frightened her? What has she heard? What 
has she seen ? " asked Frere, with a strangely white face. 
" Sylvia, Sylvia ! " 

She opened her eyes at the sound of his voice. " Take me 
home, papa ; I'm ill. Oh, what thoughts ! " 

" What does she mean ? " cried Frere, looking in alarm from 
or»e to the other. 

" That ruffian Dawes frightened her," said Meekin. " A 
gush of recollection, poor child. There, there, calm yourself, 
Miss Vickers. He is quite safe." 

" Frightened her, eh ? " 

" Yes," said Sylvia, faintly, " he frightened me, Maurice. I 
needn't stop any longer, dear, need I ? " 

" No," says Frere, the cloud passing from his face. " Major, 
I beg your pardon, but I was hasty. Take her home at once. 
This sort of thing is too much for her." And so he went back 
to his place, wiping his brow, and breathing hard, as one who 
had just escaped from some near peril. 

Rufus Dawes had remained in the same attitude until the 
figure of Frere, passing through the doorway, roused him. 
" Who is she? " he said, in a low, hoarse voice, to the constable 
behind him. 

" Miss Vickers," said the man, shortly, flinging the informa- 
tion at him as one might fling a bone to a dangerous dog. 

" Miss Vickers I " repeated the convict, still staring in a sort 
of bewildered agony. " They told me she was dead ! " 

The constable sniffed contemptuously at this preposterous 



" THE NOTORIOUS DA IVES.' 



conclusion, as who should say, " If you know all about it, 
animal, why did you ask?" and then feeling that the fixed gaze 
of his interrogator demanded some reply, added, " You thort 
she was, I've no doubt. You did your best to make her so, 
I've heard." 

The convict raised both his hands with sudden action of 
wrathful despair, as though he would seize the other^ despite 
the loaded muskets ; but checking himself with sudden impulse, 
wheeled round to the Court. " Your Honour ! — Gentlemen ! 
I want to speak." 

The change in the tone of his voice, no less than the sudden 
loudness of the exclamation, made the faces, hitherto bent upon 
the door through which Mr. Frere had passed, turn round 
again. To many there it seemed that the "notorious Dawes" 
was no longer in the box, for, in place of the upright and 
defiant villain who stood there an instant back, was a white- 
faced, nervous, agitated creature, bending forward in an attitude 
almost of supplication, one hand grasping the rail, as though to 
save himself from falling, the other outstretched towards the 
bench. "Your Honour, there has been some dreadful mistake 
made. I want to explain about myself. I explained before, 
when first I was sent to Port Arthur, but the letters were never 
forwarded by the Commandant; of course that'e the rule, and 
I can't complain. I've been sent there unjustly, your Honour. 
/ made that boat, your Honour. / saved the Major's wife and 
daughter. / was the man ; I did it all myself, and my liberty 
was sworn away by a villain who hated me. I thought, until 
now, that no one knew the truth, for they told me that she was 
dead." His rapid utterance took the Court so much by sur- 
prise that no one interrupted him. " I was sentenced to death 
for bolting, sir, and they reprieved me because I helped them 
in the boat. Helped them ! Why, I made it ! She will tell 
you so. I nursed her ! I carried her in my arms ! I starved 
myself for her ! She was fond of me, sir. She was, indeed. 
She called me 'Good Mr. Dawes.'" 

At this, a coarse laugh broke out, which was instantly 
checked. The judge bent over to ask, "Does he mean Miss 
Vickers?" and in this interval, Rufus Dawes, looking down 
into the Court, saw Maurice Frere staring up at him with terror 
in his eyes. 

" I see you, Captain Frere, coward and liar ! Put him in the 



HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



box, gentlemen, and make him tell his story. ShJW contradict 
him, never fear. Oh, and I thought she was dead all this 
while!" 

The judge had got his answer from the clerk by this time. 
u Miss Vickers had been seriously ill, had fainted just now in 
the Court. Her only memories of the convict who had been 
with her in the boat were those of terror and disgust. The 
sight of him just now had most seriously affected her. The 
convict himself was an inveterate liar and schemer, and his 
story had been already disproved by Captain Frere." 

The judge, a man inclining by nature to humanity, but forced 
by experience to receive all statements of prisoners with caution, 
said all he could say, and the tragedy of five years was dis- 
posed of in the following dialogue : — 

Judge : This is not the place for an accusation against 
Captain Frere, nor the place to argue upon your alleged wrongs. 
If you have suffered injustice, the authorities will hear your 
complaint, and redress it. 

RUFUS Dawes : I have complained, your Honour. I wrote 
letter after letter to the Government, but they were never sent. 
Then I heard she was dead, and they sent me to the coal mines 
after that, and we never hear anything there. 

Judge : I can't listen to you. Mr. Mangles, have you any 
more questions to ask the witness ? 

But Mr. Mangles not having any more, some one called 
"Matthew Gabbett," and Rufus Dawes, still endeavouring to 
speak, was clanked away with, amid a buzz of remark and 
surmise. 



The trial progressed without further incident. Sylvia was 
not called, and, to the astonishment of many of his enemies, 
Captain Frere went into the witness-box and generously spoke 
in favour of John Rex. " He might have left us to starve," 
Frere said — " he might have murdered us ; we were completely 
in his power. The stock of provisions on board the brig was 
not a large one, and I consider that, in dividing it with us, he 
showed great generosity for one in his situation." This piece 
of evidence told strongly in favour of the prisoners, for Captain 
Frere was known to be such an uncompromising foe to all 
rebellious convicts, that it was understood that only the sternest 



MAURICE FRERE 4 S GOOD ANGEL. 223 



sense of justice and truth could lead him to speak in such terms. 
The defence set up by Rex, moreover, was most ingenious. 
He was guilty of absconding, but his moderation might plead 
an excuse for that. His only object was his freedom, and 
having gained it, he had lived honestly for nearly three years,- 
as he could prove. He was charged with piratically seizing the 
brig Osprey, and he urged that the brig Osprey, having been 
built by convicts at Macquarie Harbour, and never entered in 
any shipping list, could not be said to be "piratically seized," 
in the strict meaning of the term. The Court admitted the 
force of this objection, and, influenced doubtless by Captain 
Frere's evidence, the fact that five years had passed since the 
mutiny, and that the two men most guilty (Cheshire and Barker) 
had been executed in England, sentenced Rex and his three 
companions to transportation for life to the penaj settlements 
of the colony. 



CHAPTER V. 
MAURICE FRERE'S GOOD ANGEL. 

AT this happy conclusion to his labours, Frere went down 
to comfort the girl for whose sake he had suffered Rex to 
escape the gallows. On his way he was met by a man 
who touched his hat, and asked to speak with him an instant. 
This man was past middle age, owned a red brandy-beaten face, 
and had in his gait and manner that nameless something that 
denotes the seaman. 

" Well, Blunt," says Frere, pausing with the impatient air of 
a man who expects to hear bad news, " what is it now?" 

" Only to tell you that it is all right, sir," says Blunt. " She's 
come aboard again this morning." 

" Come aboard again ! " ejaculated Frere. " Why, I didn't 
know that she had been ashore. Where did she go ? " He spoke 
with an air of confident authority, and Blunt — no longer the 
bluff tyrant of old — seemed to quail before him. The trial of 
the mutineers of the Malabar had ruined Phineas Blunt. Make 
what excuses he might, there was no concealing the fact that 
Pine found him drunk in his cabin when he ought to have been 



224 HIS NATURAL LIFE, 

attending to his duties on deck, and the " authorities " could not, 
or would not, pass over such a heinous breach of discipline. 
Captain Blunt — who, of course, had his own version of the story 
— thus deprived of the honour of bringing His Majesty's prisoners 
to His Majesty's colonies of New South Wales and Van Die- 
men's Land, went on a whaling cruise to the South Seas. The 
influence which Sarah Purfoy had acquired over him had, 
however, irretrievably injured him. It was as though she had 
poisoned his moral nature by the influence of a clever and wicked 
woman over a sensual and dull-witted man. Blunt gradually 
sank lower and lower. He became a drunkard, and was known 
as a man with a " grievance against the Government." Captain 
Frere, having had occasion for him in some capacity, had become 
in a manner his patron, and had got him the command of a 
schooner trading from Sydney. On getting this command — ■ 
not without some wry faces on the part of the owner resident in 
Hobart Town — Blunt had taken the temperance pledge for the 
space of twelve months, and was a miserable dog in consequence. 
He was, however, a faithful henchman, for he hoped by Frere's 
means to get some " Government billet" — the grand object of 
all colonial sea captains of that epoch. 

" Well, sir, she went ashore to see a friend," says Blunt, look- 
ing at the sky and then at the earth. 

"What friend?" 

" The — the prisoner, sir." 

"And she saw him, I suppose?" 

" Yes, but I thought I'd better tell you, sir," says Blunt. 

" Of course ; quite right," returned the other ; " you had 
better start at once. It's no use waiting." 

" As you wish, sir. I can sail to-morrow morning — or this 
evening, if you like." 

" This evening," says Frere, turning away ; " as soon as 
possible." 

" There's a situation in Sydney I've been looking after," said 
the other, uneasily, " if you could help me to it." 

" What is it ? " 

"The command of one of the Government vessels, sir." 

" Well, keep sober, then," says Frere, " and I'll see what I 
can do. And keep that woman's tongue still if you can." 

The pair looked at each other, and Blunt grinned slavishly. 

" I'll do my best." 



MAURICE FEE RE'S GOOD ANGEL. 225 

"Take care you do," returned his patron, leaving him without 
further ceremony. 

Frere found Vickers in the garden, and at once begged him 
not to talk about the " business " to his daughter. 

" You saw how bad she was to-day, Vickers. For goodness' 
sake don't make her ill again." 

" My dear sir," says poor Vickers, "/won't refer to the sub- 
ject. She's been very unwell ever since. Nervous and unstrung. 
Go in and sse her." 

So Frere went in and soothed the excited girl, with real sorrow 
at her suffering. 

" It's all right now, Poppet," he said to her. " Don't think of 
it any more. Put it out of your mind, dear." 

" It was foolish of me, Maurice, I know, but I could not help 
it. The sound of— of— that man's voice seemed to bring back 
to me some great pity for something or some one. I don't 
explain what I mean, I know, but I felt that I was just on the 
verge of remembering a story of some great wrong, just about 
to hear some dreadful revelation that should make me turn 
from all the people whom I ought most to love. Do you 
understand?" 

" I think I know what you mean," says Fsere, with averted 
face. " But that's all nonsense, you know." 

" Of course," returned she, with a touch of her old childish 
manner of disposing of questions out of hand. " Everybody 
knows it's all nonsense. But then we do think such things. It 
seems to me that I am double, that I have lived somewhere 
before, and have had another life— a dream-life." 

" What a romantic girl you are," said the other, dimly com- 
prehending her meaning. " How could you have a dream- 
life?" 

" Of course not, really, stupid. But in thought, you know. 
I dream such strange things now and then. I am always fall- 
ing down precipices and into cataracts, and being pushed into 
great caverns in enormous rocks. Horrible dreams ! " 

" Indigestion," returned Frere. " You don't take exercise 
enough. You shouldn't read so much. Have a good five-mile 
walk." 

"And in these dreams," continued Sylvia, not heeding his 
interruption, " there is one strange thing. You are always there 
Maurice." 

is 



226 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

" Come, that's all right," says Maurice. 

"Ah, but not kind and good as you are, Captain Bruin, but 
scowling, and threatening, and angry, so that I am afraid of 
you." 

" But that is only a dream, darling." 

"Yes, but " playing with the button of his coat. 

"But what?" 

" But you looked just so to-day in the Court, Maurice, and I 
think that's what made me so silly." 

" My darling ! There ! Hush— don't cry ! " 

But she had burst into a passion of sobs and tears, that shook 
her slight figure in his arms. 

" Oh, Maurice, I am a wicked girl ! I don't know my own 
mind. I think sometimes I don't love you as I ought — you who 
have saved me and nursed me." 

" There, never mind about that," muttered Maurice Frere, 
with a sort of choking in his throat. 

She giew more composed presently, and said, after a while, 
lifting her face — "Tell me, Maurice, did you ever, in those 
days of which you have spoken to me — when you nursed me 
as a little child in your arms, and fed me, and starved for me 
— did you ever think we should be married ? " 

" I don't know," says Maurice. " Why ? " 

" I think you must have thought so, because — it's not vanity, 
dear — you would not else have been so kind, and gentle, and 
devoted." 

" Nonsense, Poppet," he said, with his eyes resolutely 
averted . 

" No, but you have been, and I am very pettish, sometimes. 
Papa has spoiled me. You are always affectionate, and those 
worrying ways of yours, which I get angry at, all come from 
love for me, don't they ? " 

" I hope so," said Maurice, with an unwonted moisture in 
his eyes. 

" Well, you see, that is the reason why I am angry with 
myself for not loving you as I ought. I want you to like the 
things I like, and to love the books and the music and the 
pictures and the — the World / love ; and I forget that you are 
a man, you know, and I am only a girl ; and I forget how nobly 
you behaved, Maurice, and how unselfishly you risked your life 
for mine. Why, what is the matter, dear ? " 



MAURICE FR ERF'S GOOD ANGEL. 227 



He had put her away from him suddenly, and gone to the 
window, gazing across the sloping garden at the bay below, 
sleeping in the soft evening light. The schooner which had 
brought the witnesses from Port Arthur lay off the shore, and 
the yellow flag at her mast fluttered gently in the cool evening 
breeze. The sight of this flag appeared to anger him, for, as 
his eyes fell on it, he uttered an impatient exclamation, and 
turned round again. 

" Maurice ! " she cried, " I have wounded you ! " 
" No, no. It is nothing," said he, with the air of a man 
surprised in a moment of weakness. " I — I did not like to hear 
you talk in this way — about not loving me." 

" Ah, forgive me, dear ; I did not mean to hurt you. It is 
my silly way of saying more than I mean. How could I do 
otherwise than love you — after all you have done ?" 

Some sudden desperate whim caused him to exclaim, " But 
suppose I had not done all you think, would you not love me 
still?" 

Her eyes, raised to his face with anxious tenderness for the 
pain she had believed herself to have inflicted, fell at this 
speech. 

" What a question ! I don't know. I suppose I should ; 
yet — but what is the use, Maurice, of supposhig? I know 
you have done it, and that is enough. How can I say what 
I might have done if something else had happened ? Why, 
you might not have loved me.*' 

If there had been for a moment any sentiment of remorse 
in his selfish heart, the hesitation of her answer went far to 
dispel it. 

" To be sure, that's true," and he placed his arm round her. 
She lifted her face again with a bright laugh. 
" We are a pair of geese — supposing ! How can we help 
what has past? We have the Future, darling — the Future, in 
which I am to be your little wife, and we are to love each other 
all our lives, like the people in the story-books." 

Temptation to evil had often come to Maurice Frere, and his 
selfish nature had succumbed to it when in far less witching 
shape than this fair and innocent child luring him with wistful 
eyes to win her. What hopes had he not built upon her love ; 
what good resolutions had he not made by reason of the purity 
and goodness she was to bring to him ? As she said, the past 



228 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

was beyond recall ; the future — in which she was to love him 
all her life — was before them. With the hypocrisy of selfishness 
which deceives even itself, he laid the little head upon his heart 
with a sensible glow of virtue. 

" God bless you, darling ! You are my good angel." 
The girl sighed. " I will be your good angel, dear, if you 
will let me." 



CHAPTER VI. 

MR. MEEKIN ADMINISTERS CONSOLATION. 

REX told Mr. Meekin, who, the next day, did him the 
honour to visit him, that, " under Providence, he owed 
his escape from death to the kind manner in which 
Captain Frere had spoken of him." 

" I hope your escape will be a warning to you, my man," 
said Mr. Meekin, "and that you will endeavour to make the 
rest of your life, thus spared by the mercy of Providence, an 
atonement for your early errors." 

" Indeed I will, sir," said John Rex, who had taken Mr. 
Meekin's measure very accurately, " and it is very kind of you 
to condescend to speak so to a wretch like me." 

"Not at all," said Meekin, with affability; "it is my duty. 
I am a Minister of the Gospel." 

" Ah ! sir, I wish I had attended to the Gospel's teachings 
when I was younger. I might have been saved from all this." 

" You might, indeed, poor man ; but the Divine Mercy is 
infinite — quite infinite, and will be extended to all of us — to 
you as well as to me." (This with the air of saying, " What 
do you think of that!") " Remember the penitent thief, Rex, 
— the penitent thief." 

" Indeed I do, sir." 

"And read your Bible, Rex, and pray for strength to beai 
your punishment." 

" I will, Mr. Meekin. I need it sorely, sir — physical as well 
as spiritual strength, sir— for the Government allowance is sadly 
insufficient." 

" I will speak to the authorities about a change in your 



MR. MEEKIN ADMINISTERS CONSOLATION. 229 

dietary scale," returned Meekin, patronizingly. " In the mean 
time, just collect together in your mind those particulars of 
your adventures of which you spoke, and have them ready for 
me when next I call. Such a remarkable history ought not to 
be lost." 

" Thank you kindly, sir. I will, sir. Ah ! I little thought 
when I occupied the position of a gentleman, Mr. Meekin" — 
the cunning scoundrel had been piously grandiloquent con- 
cerning his past career — "that I should be reduced to this. 
But it is only just, sir." 

" The mysterious workings of Providence are always just, 
Rex," returned Meekin, who preferred to speak of the Almighty 
with well-bred vagueness. " I am glad to see you so conscious 
of your errors. Good morning." 

" Good morning, and Heaven bless you, sir," said Rex, with 
his tongue in his cheek for the benefit of his yard mates ; and 
so Mr. Meekin tripped gracefully away, convinced that he was 
labouring most successfully in the Vineyard, and that the 
convict Rex was really a superior person. 

" I will send his narrative to the Bishop," said he to himself. 
" It will amuse him. There must be many strange histories 
here, if one could but find them out." 

As the thought passed through his brain, his eye fell upon 
the " notorious Dawes," who, while waiting for the schooner to 
take him back to Port Arthur, had been permitted to amuse 
himself by breaking stones. The prison-shed which Mr. 
Meekin was visiting was long and low, roofed with iron, and 
terminating at each end in the stone wall of the gaol. At one 
side rose the cells, at the other the outer wall of the prison. 
From the outer wall projected a weatherboard under-roof, and 
beneath this were seated forty heavily-ironed convicts. Two 
constables, with loaded carbines, walked up and down the clear 
space in the middle, and another watched from a sort of sentry- 
box built against the main wall. Every half-hour a third 
constable went down the line and examined the irons. The 
admirable system of solitary confinement— which in average 
cases produces insanity in the space of twelve months — was as 
yet unknown in Hobart Town, and the forty heavily-ironed 
men had the pleasure of seeing each other's faces every day for 
six hours. 

The other inmates of the prison were at work on the roads, 



230 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



or otherwise bestowed in the day time, but the forty were 
judged too desperate to be let loose. They sat, three feet 
apart, in two long lines, each man with a heap of stones 
between his outstretched legs, and cracked the pebbles in 
leisurely fashion. The double row of dismal woodpeckers 
tapping at this terribly hollow beech-tree of penal discipline 
had a semi-ludicrous appearance. It seemed so painfully 
absurd that forty muscular men should be ironed and guarded 
for no better purpose than the cracking of a cart-load of quartz- 
pebbles. In the mean time the air was heavy with angry 
glances shot from one to the other, and the passage of the 
parson was hailed by a grumbling undertone of blasphemy. 
It was considered fashionable to grunt when the hammer came 
in contact with the stone, and under cover of this mock ex- 
clamation of fatigue, it was convenient to launch an oath. A 
fanciful visitor, seeing the irregularly rising hammers along the 
line, might have likened the shed to the interior of some vast 
piano, whose notes an unseen hand was erratically fingering. 
Rufus Dawes was seated last of the line— his back to the cells, 
his face to the gaol wall. This was the place nearest the 
watching constable, and was allotted on that account to the 
most ill-favoured. Some of his companions envied him that 
melancholy distinction. 

" Well, Dawes," says Mr. Meekin, measuring with his eye 
the distance between the prisoner and himself, as one might 
measure the chain of some ferocious dog. " How are you this 
morning, Dawes ? " 

Dawes, scowling in a parenthesis between the cracking of 
two stones, was understood to say that he was very well. 

" I am afraid, Dawes," said Mr. Meekin reproachfully, " that 
you have done yourself no good by your outburst in court on 
Monday. I understand that public opinion is quite incensed 
against you." 

Dawes, slowly arranging one large fragment of Milestone in a 
comfortable basin of smaller fragments, made no reply. 

" I am afraid you lack patience, Dawes. You do not repent 
of your offences against the law, I fear." 

The only answer vouchsafed by the ironed man — if answer 
it could be called— was a savage blow, which split the stone 
into sudden fragments, and made the clergyman skip a step 
backward. 



MR. MEEKIN ADMINISTERS CONSOLATION. 231 

" You are a hardened ruffian, sir I Do you not hear me 
speak to you?" 

" I hear you," said Dawes, picking up another stone. 

" Then listen respectfully, sir," said Meekin, roseate with 
celestial anger. "You have all day to break those stones." 

"Yes, I have all day," returned Rufus Dawes, with a dogged 
look upward, " and all next day, for that matter. Ugh 1 " 
and again the hammer descended. 

" I came to console you, man — to console you," says Meekin, 
indignant at the contempt with which his well-meant overtures 
had been received. "I wanted to give you some good advice!" 

The self-important annoyance of the tone seemed to appeal 
to whatever vestige of appreciation for the humorous, chains 
and degradation had suffered to linger in the convict's brain, 
for a faint smile crossed his features. 

u I beg your pardon, sir," he said. " Pray go on." 

" I was going to say, my good fellow, that you have done 
yourself a great deal of injury by your ill-advised accusation of 
Captain Frere, and the use you made of Miss Vickers's name." 

A frown, as of pain, contracted the prisoner's brows, and he 
seemed with difficulty to put a restraint upon his speech. "Is 
there to be no inquiry, Mr. Meekin ? " he asked, at length. 
" What I stated was the truth — the truth, so help me God ! " 

"No blasphemy, sir," said Meekin, solemnly. "No blas- 
phemy, wretched man. Do not add to the sin of lying the 
greater sin of taking the name of the Lord thy God in vain. 
He will not hold him guiltless, Dawes. He will not hold him 
guiltless, remember. No, there is to be no inquiry." 

"Are they not going to ask her for her story? " asked Dawes, 
with a pitiful change of manner. " They told me that she was 
to be asked. Surely they will ask her." 

" I am not, perhaps, at liberty," says Meekin, placidly un- 
conscious of the agony of despair and rage that made the 
voice of the strong man before him quiver, " to state the 
intentions of the authorities, but I can tell you that Miss 
Vickers will not be asked anything about you. You are to 
go back to Port Arthur on the 24th, and to remain there." 

A groan burst from Rufus Dawes ; a groan so full of torture, 
that even the comfortable Meekin was thrilled by it. 

" It is the Law, you know, my good man. I can't help it," 
he said. " You shouldn't break the Law, you know." 



232 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



"Curse the Law!" cries Dawes. " It's a Bloody Law; it's 

there, I beg your pardon," and he fell to cracking his 

stones again, with a laugh that was more terrible in its bitter 
hopelessness of winning attention or sympathy, than any out- 
burst of passion could have been. 

" Come," says Meekin, feeling uneasily constrained to bring 
forth some of his London-learnt platitudes. " You can't com- 
plain. You have broken the Law, and you must suffer. 
Civilized Society says you sha'n't do certain things, and if you 
do them you must suffer the penalty Civilized Society imposes. 
You are not wanting in intelligence, Dawes, more's the pity — 
and you can't deny the justice of that." 

Rufus Dawes, as if disdaining to answer in words, cast his 
eyes round the yard with a glance that seemed to ask grimly 
if Civilized Society was progressing quite in accordance with 
justice, when its civilization created such places as that stone- 
walled, carbine-guarded prison-shed, and filled it with such 
creatures as those forty human beasts, doomed to spend the 
best years of their manhood cracking pebbles in it. 

"Yoh don't deny that?" asked the smug parson, "do you, 
Dawes ? " 

" It's not my place to argue with you, sir," said Dawes, in 
a tone of indifference, born of lengthened suffering, so nicely 
balanced between contempt and respect, that the inexperienced 
Meekin could not tell whether he had made a convert, or sub- 
jected himself to an impertinence ; ''but I'm a prisoner for»life, 
and don't look at it in the same way that you do." 

This view of the question did not seem to have occurred to 
Mr. Meekin, for his mild cheek flushed. Certainly, the fact of 
being a prisoner for life did make some difference. The sound 
of the noonday bell, however, warned him to cease argument, 
and to take his consolations out of the way of the mustering 
prisoners. 

With a great clanking and clashing oi irons, the forty rose 
and stood each by his stone-heap. The third constable came 
round, rapping the leg-irons of each man with easy nonchalance, 
and roughly pulling up the coarse trousers (made with buttoned 
flaps at the sides, like Mexican calzoneros, in order to give free 
play to the ankle fetters), so that he might assure himself that 
no tricks had been played since his last visit. As each man 
passed this ordeal he saluted, and clanked, with wide-spread 



KUFUS DA WES S IDYLL. 233 



legs, to his place in the double line. Mr. Meekin, though not 
a patron of field sports, found something in the scene that 
reminded him of a blacksmith picking up horses' feet to examine 
the soundness of their shoes. 

" Upon my word," he said to himself, with a momentary pang 
of genuine compassion, " it is a dreadful way to treat human 
beings. I don't wonder at that wretched creature groaning 
under it. But, bless me, it is near one o'clock, and I promised to 
lunch with Major Vickers at two. How time flies, tobe sure!' 



CHAPTER VII. 

RUFUS DAWES'S IDYLL. 



THAT afternoon, while Mr. Meekin was digesting his 
lunch, and chatting airily with Sylvia, Rufus Dawes 
began to brood over a desperate scheme. The intelli- 
gence that the investigation he had hoped for was not to be 
granted to him had rendered doubly bitter those galling fetters 
of self-restraint which he had laid upon himself. For five years 
of desolation he had waited and hoped for a chance which 
might bring him to Hobart Town, and enable him to denounce 
the treachery of Maurice Frere. He had, by an almost miracu- 
lous accident, obtained that chance of open speech, and, having 
obtained it, he found that he was not allowed to speak. All the 
hopes he had formed were dashed to earth. All the calmness 
with which he had forced himself to bear his fate was now 
turned into bitterest rage and fury. Instead of one enemy he 
had twenty. All — judge, jury, gaoler, and parson — were banded 
together to work him evil and deny him right. The whole 
world was his foe : there was no honesty or truth in any living 
creature — save one. 

During the dull misery of his convict life at Port Arthur one 
bright memory shone upon him like a star. In the depth of 
his degradation, at the height of his despair, he cherished one 
pure and ennobling thought — the thought of the child whom he 
had saved, and who loved him. When, on board the whaler 
that had rescued him from the burning boat, he had felt that 
the sailors, believing in Frere's bluff lies, shrunk from the 



234 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

moody felon, he had gained strength to be silent, by thinking 
of the suffering child. When poor Mrs. Vickers died, making 
no sign, and thus the chief witness to his heroism perished 
before his eyes, the thought that the child was left had restrained 
his selfish regrets. When Frere, "handing him over to the 
authorities as an absconder, ingeniously twisted the details of 
the boat-building to his own glorification, the knowledge that 
Sylvia would assign to these pretensions their true value had 
given him courage to keep silence. So strong was his belief in 
her gratitude, that he scorned to beg for the pardon he had 
taught himself to believe that she would ask for him. So utter 
was his contempt for the coward and boaster who, dressed in 
brief authority, bore insidious false witness against him, that, 
when he heard his sentence of life banishment, he disdained to 
make known the true part he had played in the matter, pre- 
ferring to wait for the more exquisite revenge, the more complete 
justification which would follow upon the recovery of the child 
from her illness. But when, at Port Arthur, day after day 
passed over, and brought no word of pity or justification, he 
began, with a sickening feeling of despair, to comprehend that 
something strange had happened. He was told by new comers 
that the child of the Commandant lay still sick and near to 
death. Then he heard that she and her father had left the 
colony, and that all prospect of her righting him by her evidence 
was at an end. This news gave him a terrible pang ; and at 
first he was inclined to break out into upbraidings of her selfish- 
ness. But, with that depth of love which was in him, albeit 
crusted over and concealed by the sullcnness of speech and 
manner which his sufferings had produced, he found excuses 
for her even then. She was ill. She was in the hands of 
friends who loved her, and disregarded himj perhaps, even her 
entreaties and explanations were put aside as childish babblings. 
She would free him if she had the power. Then he wrote 
" statements," agonized to see the Commandant, pestered the 
gaolers and warders with the story of his wrongs, and inundated 
the Government with letters, which, containing, as they did 
always, denunciations of Maurice Frere, were never suffered to 
reach their destination. The authorities, willing at the first to 
look kindly upon him in consideration of his strange experience, 
grew weary of this perpetual iteration of what they believed to 
be malicious falsehoods, and ordered him heavier tasks and 



RUFUS DAWES'S IDYLL. 235 



more continuous labour. They mistook his gloom for treachery, 
his impatient outbursts of passion at his fate for ferocity, his 
silent endurance for dangerous cunning. As he had been at 
Macquarie Harbour, so did he become at Port Arthur — a marked 
man. Despairing of winning his coveted liberty by fair means, 
and horrified at the hideous prospect of a life in chains, he 
twice attempted to escape, but escape was even more hopeless 
than it had been at Hell's Gates. The Peninsula of Port 
Arthur was admirably guarded, signal stations drew a chain 
round the prison, an armed boat's crew watched each bay, and 
across the narrow isthmus which connected it with the main- 
land was a cordon of watch-dogs, in addition to the soldier 
guard. He was retaken, of course, flogged, and weighted with 
heavier irons. The second time, they sent him to the Coal 
Mines, where the prisoners lived underground, worked hak" 
naked, and dragged their inspecting gaolers in waggons upon 
iron tramways, when such great people condescended to visit 
them. The day on which he started for this place he heard 
that Sylvia was dead, and his last hope went from him. 

Then began with him a new religion. He worshipped the 
dead. For the living, he had but hatred and evil words ; for 
the dead, he had love and tender thoughts. Instead of the 
phantoms of his vanished youth which were once wont to visit 
him, he saw now but one vision — the vision of the child who 
had loved him. Instead of conjuring up for himself pictures of 
that home circle in which he had once moved, and those crea- 
tures who in the past years had thought him worthy of esteem 
and affection, he placed before himself but one idea, one 
embodiment of happiness, one being who was without sin 
and without stain, among all the monsters of that pit into 
which he had fallen. Around the figure of the innocent child 
who had lain in his breast, and laughed at him with her red 
young mouth, he grouped every image of happiness and love. 
Having banished from his thoughts all hope of resuming his 
name and place, he pictured to himself some quiet nook at the 
world's end — a deep-gardened house in a German country 
town, or remote cottage by the English seashore, where he 
and his dream-child might have lived together, happier in a 
purer affection than the love of man for woman. He bethought 
him how he could have taught her out of the strange store of 
learning which his roving life had won for him, how he could 



236 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

have confided to her his real name, and perhaps purchase for 
her wealth and honour by reason of it. Yet, — he thought, she 
would not care for wealth and honour, she would prefer a quiet 
life, — a life of unassuming usefulness, a life devoted to good 
deeds, to charity and love. He could see her — in his visions 
— reading by a cheery fireside, wandering in summer woods, 
or lingering by the marge of the slumbering mid-day sea. He 
could feel — in his dreams — her soft arms about his neck, her 
innocent kisses on his lips, he could hear her light laugh, and 
see her sunny ringlets float, back-blown, as she ran to meet 
him. Conscious that she was dead, and that he did to her 
gentle memory no disrespect by linking her fortunes to those 
of a wretch who had seen so much of evil as himself, he loved 
to think of her as still living, and to plot out for her and for 
himself impossible plans of future happiness. In the noisome 
darkness of the mine, in the glaring light of the noonday — 
dragging at his loaded waggon, he could see her ever witli him, 
her calm eyes gazing lovingly on his, as they had gazed in the 
boat so long ago. She never seemed to grow older, she never 
seemed to wish to leave him. It was only when his misery 
became too great for him to bear, and he cursed and blas- 
phemed, mingling for a time in the hideous mirth of his 
companions, that the little figure fled away. Thus dreaming, 
he had shaped out for himself a sorrowful comfort, and in his 
dream-world found a compensation for the terrible affliction of 
living. Indifference to his present sufferings took possession 
of him ; only at the bottom of this indifference lurked a fixed 
hatred of the man who had brought these sufferings upon him, 
and a determination to demand at the first opportunity a recon- 
sideration of that man's claims to be esteemed a hero. It was 
in this mood that he had intended to make the revelation which 
he had made in court, but the intelligence that Sylvia lived 
unmanned him, and his prepared speech had been usurped by 
a passionate torrent of complaint and invective, which convinced 
no one, and gave Frere the very argument he needed. It was 
decided that the prisoner Dawes was a malicious and artful 
scoundrel, whose only object was to gain a brief respite of the 
punishment which he had so justly earned. Against this in- 
justice he had resolved to rebel. It was monstrous, he thought, 
that they should refuse to hear the witness who was so ready 
to speak in his favour, infamous that they should send him 



AN ESCAPE. 237 



back to his doom without allowing her to say a word in his 
defence. But he would defeat that scheme. He had planned 
a method of escape, and he would break from his bonds, fling 
himself at her feet, and pray her to speak the truth for him, and 
so save him. Strong in his faith in her, and with his love for 
her brightened by the love he had borne to her dream-image, 
he felt sure of her power to rescue him now, as he had rescued 
her before. " If she knew I was alive, she would come to me," 
he said. " I am sure she would. Perhaps they told her that I 
was dead." 

Meditating that night in the solitude of his cell — his evil 
character had gained him the poor luxury of loneliness — he 
almost wept to think of the cruel deception that had doubtless 
been practised on her. " They have told her that I was dead, 
in order that she might learn to forget me ; but she could not 
do that. I have thought of her so often during these weary 
years, that she must sometimes have thought of me. Five 
years ! She must be a woman now. My little child a woman ! 
Yet she is sure to be childlike, sweet, and gentle. How she 
will grieve when she hears of my sufferings. Oh ! my darling, 
my darling, you are not dead ! " And then, looking hastily 
about him in the darkness, as though fearful even there of 
being seen, he pulled from out his breast a little packet, and 
felt it lovingly with his coarse, toil-worn fingers, reverently 
raising it to his lips, and dreaming over it, with a smile on 
his face, as though it were a sacred talisman that should open 
to him the doors of freedom. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

AN ESCAPE. 



A FEW days after this — on the 23rd of December — Maurice 
Frere was alarmed by a piece of startling intelligence. 
The notorious Dawes had escaped from gaol ! 
Captain Frere had inspected the prison that very afternoon, 
and it had seemed to him that the hammers had never fallen 
so briskly, nor the chains clanked so gaily, as on the occasion 
of his visit. " Thinking of their Christmas holiday, the dogs ! " 



238 JUS NATURAL LIFE. 

he had said to the patrolling warder. "Thinking of their 
Christmas pudding, the luxurious scoundrels ! " and the con- 
vict nearest him had laughed appreciatively, as convicts and 
schoolboys do laugh at the jests of the man in authority. All 
seemed contentment. Moreover, he had — by way of a pleasant 
stroke of wit — tormented Rufus Dawes with his ill-fortune. 
" The schooner sails to-morrow, my man," he had said ; " you'll 
spend your Christmas at the mines." And congratulated him- 
self upon the fact that Rufus Dawes merely touched his cap, 
and went on with his stone-cracking in silence. Certainly 
double irons and hard labour were fine things to break a man's 
spirit. So that, when in the afternoon of the same day he 
heard the astounding news that Rufus Dawes had freed, him- 
self from his fetters, climbed the gaol wall in broad daylight, 
run the gauntlet of Macquarie-street, and was now supposed to 
be safely hidden in the mountains, he was dumbfounded. 

" How the deuce did he do it, Jenkins ? " he asked, as soon 
as he reached the yard. 

"Well, I'm blessed if I rightly know, your honour," says 
Jenkins. " He was over the wall before you could say 'knife.' 
Scott fired and missed him, and then I heard the sentry's 
musket, but he missed him, too." 

" Missed him ! " cries Frere. " Pretty fellows you are, all of 
you ! I suppose you couldn't hit a haystack at twenty yards ? 
Why, the man wasn't three feet from the end of your carbine ! " 

The unlucky Scott, standing in melancholy attitude by the 
empty irons, muttered something about the sun having been 
in his eyes. " I don't know how it was, sir. I ought to have 
hit him, for certain. I think I did touch him, too, as he went 
up the wall." 

A stranger to the customs of the place might have imagined 
that he was listening to a conversation about a pigeon match. 

" Tell me all about it," says Frere, with an angry curse. 

" I was just turning, your honour, when I hears Scott sing 
out ' Hullo ! " and when I turned round, I saw Dawes's irons 
on the ground, and him a-scrambling up the heap o' stones 
yonder. The two men on my right jumped up, and I thought 
it was a made-up thing among 'em, so I covered 'em with my 
carbine, according to instructions, and called out that I'd shoot 
the first that stepped out. Then I heard Scott's piece, and the 
men gave a shout like. When I looked round, he was gone." 



AJV ESCAPE. 239 



" Nobody else moved ? " 

" No, sir. I was confused at first, and thought they were all 
in it, but Parton and Haines they runs in and gets between me 
and the wall, and then Mr. Short he come, and we examined 
their irons." 

"All right?" 

" All right, your honour ; and they all swore they knowed 
nothing of it. I know Dawes's irons was all right when he went 
to dinner." 

Frere stooped and examined the empty fetters. * All right 
be hanged," he said. " If you don't know your duty better 
than this, the sooner you go somewhere else the better, my 
man.. Look here ! " 

The two ankle fetters were severed. One had been evidently 
filed through, and the other broken transversely. The latter 
was bent, as from a violent blow. 

" Don't know where he got the file from, " said Warder 
Short. 

" Know ! Of course you don't know. You men never do 
know anything until the mischief's done. You want me here 
for a month or so. I'd teach you your duty ! Don't know — 
with things -like this lying about ? I wonder the whole yard 
isn't loose and dining with the Governor." 

" This" was a fragment of delft which Frere's quick eye had 
detected among the broken metal. 

" I'd cut the biggest iron you've got with this ; and so would 
he and plenty more, I'll go bail. You ought to have lived with 
me at Sarah Island, Mr. Short. Don't know !" 

"Well, Captain Frere, it's an accident," says Short, "and 
can't be helped now." 

" An accident ! " roared Frere. " What business have you 
with accidents ? How, in the devil's name, you let the man get 
over the wall, I don't know." 

"He ran up that stone heap," says Scott, "and seemed to 
me to jump at the roof of the shed. I fired at him, and he 
swung his legs over the top of the wall and dropped." 

Frere measured the distance from his eye, and an irrepressible 
feeling of admiration, arising out of his own skill in athletics, 
took possession of him for the instant. 

" By the Lord Harry, but it's a big jump !" he said ; and then 
the instinctive fear with which the consciousness of the hideous 



240 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



wrong he had done the now escaped convict inspired him, 
made him add — " A desperate villain like that wouldn't stick 
at a murder if you pressed him hard. Which way did he 
go?" 

" Right up Macquarie-street, and then made for the Moun- 
tain. There were few people about, but Mr. Mays, of the Star 
Hotel, tried to stop him, and was knocked head over heels. 
He says the fellow runs like a deer." 

" We'll have the reward out if we don't get him to-night," 
says Frere, turning away ; " and you'd better put on an extra 
warder. This sort of game is catching ;" and he strode away 
to the Barracks. 

From right to left, from east to west, through the prison city 
flew the signal of alarm, and the patrol, clattering out along the 
road to New Norfolk, made hot haste to strike the trail of the 
fugitive. But night came and found him yet at large, and the 
patrol returning, weary and disheartened, protested that he 
must be lying hid in some gorge of the purple mountain that 
overshadowed the town, and would have to be starved into 
submission. Meanwhile the usual message ran through the 
island, and so admirable were the arrangements which Arthur 
the reformer had initiated, that, before noon of the next day, not 
a signal station on the coast but knew that No. 8942, etc., etc., 
prisoner for life, was illegally at large. This intelligence, 
further aided by a paragraph in the Gazette anent the " Daring 
Escape," noised abroad, the world cared little that the Mary 
Jane, Government schooner, had sailed for Port Arthur with- 
out Rufus Dawes. 

But two or three persons cared a good deal. Major Vickers, 
for one, was indignant that his boasted security of bolts and 
bars should have been so easily defied, and in proportion to his 
indignation was the grief of Messieurs Jenkins, Scott, and Co., 
suspended from office, and threatened with absolute dismissal. 
Mr. Meekin was terribly frightened at the fact that so danger- 
ous a monster should be roaming at large within reach of his 
own saintly person. Sylvia had shown symptoms of nervous 
terror, none the less injurious because carefully repressed ; and 
Captain Maurice Frere was a prey to the most cruel anxiety. 
He had ridden off at a hand-gallop within ten minutes after 
he had reached the barracks, and had spent the few hours of 
remaining daylight in scouring the country along the road to 



JOHN REX'S LETTER HOME. 241 

the North. At dawn the next c'ay he was away to the Moun- 
tain, and with a black-tracker at his heels, explored as much 
of that wilderness of gully and chasm as nature permitted to 
him. He had offered to double the reward, and had examined 
a number of suspicious persons. It was known that he had 
been inspecting the prison a few hours before the escape took 
place, and his efforts were therefore attributed to zeal, not un- 
mixed with chagrin. " Our dear friend feels his reputation at 
stake," the future chaplain of Port Arthur said to Sylvia at the 
Christmas dinner. "He is so proud of his knowledge of these 
unhappy men that he dislikes to be outwitted by any of them." 

Notwithstanding all this, however, Dawes had disappeared. 
The fat landlord of the Star Hotel was the last person who 
saw him, and the flying yellow figure seemed to have been as 
completely swallowed up by the warm summer's afternoon as 
if it had run headlong into the blackest night that ever hung 
above the earth. 



CHAPTER IX. 

JOHN REX'S LETTER HOME. 



THE " little gathering " of which Major Vickers had spoken 
to Mr. Meekin, had grown into something larger than he 
had anticipated. Instead of a quiet dinner at which his 
own household, his daughter's betrothed, and the stranger 
clergyman only should be present, the Major found himself 
entangled with Mesdames Protherick and Jellicoe, Mr. McNab 
of the garrison, and Mr. Pounce of the civil list. His quiet 
Christmas dinner had grown into an evening party. 
The conversation was on the usual topic. 

" Heard anything about that fellow Dawes ? " asked Mr. 
Pounce. 

" Not yet," says Erere, sulkily ; " but he won't be out long. 
I've got a dozen men up the mountain." 

" I suppose it is not easy for a prisoner to make good his 
escape ? " says Meekin. 

" Oh, he needn't be caught," says Frere, " if that's what you 
mean, but he'll starve instead. The bushranging days are over 

16 



3 4 2 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

now, and it's a precious poor look-out for any man to live upon 
luck in the bush." 

" Indeed, yes," says Mr. Pounce, lapping his soup. " This 
island seems specially adapted by Providence for a convict 
settlement ; for with an admirable climate, it carries little indi- 
genous vegetation which will support human life." 

" Wull," said McNab to Sylvia, " I don't think Prauvidence 
had any thocht o' caunveect deeciplin whun He created the 
cauleny o' Van Deemen's Lan'." 
" Neither do I," said Sylvia. 

" I don't know," says Mrs. Protherick. " Poor Protherick 
used often to say that it seemed as if some Almighty Hand had 
planned the Penal Settlements round the coast, the country is 
so delightfully barren." 

" Ay, Port Arthur couldn't have been better if it had been 
made on purpose," says Frere ; " and all up the coast from 
Tenby to St. Helen's there isn't a scrap for human being to 
make a meal on. The West Coast is worse. By George, sir, 

in the old days, I remember " 

" By the way," says Meekin, " I've got something to show 
you. Rex's confession. I brought it down on purpose." 
" Rex's confession ! " 

" His account of his adventures after he left Macquarie Har- 
bour. I am going to send it to the Bishop." 

" Oh, I should like to see it," said Sylvia, with heightened 
colour. " The story of these unhappy men has a personal in- 
terest for me, you know." 

"A forbidden subject, Poppet." 

" No, papa, not altogether forbidden ; for it does ndt affect 
me now as it used to do. You must let me read it, Mr. Meekin." 
" A pack of lies, I expect," said Frere, with a scowl. " That 
scoundrel Rex couldn't tell the truth to save his life." 

" You misjudge him, Captain Frere," said Meekin. r All the 
prisoners are not hardened in iniquity like Rufus Dawes. Rex 
is, I believe, truly penitent, and has written a most touching 
letter to his father." 

" A letter ! " said Vickers. " You know that, by the King's— 
no, the Queen's regulations, no letters are allowed to be sent 
to the friends of prisoners without first passing through the 
hands of the authorities." 

" I am aware of that, Major, and for that reason have brought 



JOHN REX'S LETTER HOME, 243 



it with me, that you may read it for yourself. It seems to me 
to breathe a spirit of true piety." 

" Let's have a look at it," said Frere. 

" Here it is," returned Meekin, producing a packet : " and 
when the cloth is removed, I will ask permission of the ladies 
to read it aloud. It is most interesting." 

A glance of surprise passed between the ladies Protherick 
and Jellicoe. The idea of a convict's letter proving interest- 
ing ! Mr. Meekin was new to the ways of the place. 

Frere, turning the packet between his fingers, read the 
address : 

John Rex, sen., 

Care of Mr. Blick, 
38, Bishopsgate Street Within, 

Ixindon. 

" Why can't he write to his father direct ? " said he. " Who's 
Blick ? " 

" A worthy merchant, I am told, in whose counting-house the 
unfortunate Rex passed his younger days. He had a tolerable 
education, as you are aware." 

"Educated prisoners are always the worst," said Vickers. 
" James, some more wine. We don't drink toasts here, but as 
this is Christmas Eve — ' Her Majesty the Queen 1 ' " 

" Hear, hear, hear ! " says Maurice. " ' Her Majesty the 
Queen ! ' " 

Having drunk this loyal toast with due fervour, Vickers pro- 
posed, " His Excellency Sir John Franklin," which toast was 
likewise duly honoured. 

" Here's a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you, 
sir," said Frere, with the letter still in his hand. " God bless us 
all." 

"Amen !" says Meekin piously. "Let us hope He will ; and 
now, leddies, the letter. I will read you the Confession after- 
wards." Opening the packet with the satisfaction of a Gospel 
vineyard labourer who sees his first vine sprouting, the good 
creature began : 

" • Hobart Town, Dec. 27th, 1838. 

"My Dear Father,— Through all the chances, changes, and vicis itudes 
of my chequered life, I never had a task so painful to my mangled feelings 



244 & IS NATURAL LIFE. 

as the present one, of addressing you from this doleful spot — my sea-gift 
prison, on the beach of which I stand a monument of destruction ; driven 
by the adverse winds of fate to the confines of black despair, and into the 
vortex of galling misery." 

" Poetical ! " said Frere. 

" ' I am just like a gigantic tree of the forest which has stood many a wintry 
blast and stormy tempest, but now, alas ! I am become a withered trunk, 
with all my greenest and tenderest branches lopped off. Though fast at- 
taining middle age, I am not filling an envied and honoured post with 
credit and respect. No — I shall be soon wearing the garb of degradation, 
and the badge and brand of infamy at P. A., which is, being interpreted, 
Port Arthur, the ''Villain's Home.'"" 

" Poor fellow ! " said Sylvia. 

"Touching, is it not?" assented Meekm, continuing, — 

. " ' I am, with heartrending sorrow and anguish of soul, ranged and mingled 
with the Outcasts of Society. My present circumstances and picture you 
will find well and truly drawn in the 102nd Psalm, commencing with the 
4th verse to the 12th inclusive, which, my dear father, I request you will 
read attentively before you proceed any further.' " 

" Hullo ! " said Frere, pulling out his pocket-book, " what's 
that? Read those numbers again." 

Mr. Meekin complied, and Frere grinned. 

" Go on," he said. " I'll show you something in that letter 
directly." 

" 'Oh, my dear father, avoid, I beg of you, the reading of profane books. 
Let your mind dwell upon holy things, and assiduously study to grow in 
grace. Psalm lxxiii. 2. Yet I have hope even in this my desolate condition. 
Psalm xxxv. 18. " For the Lord our God is merciful, and inclineth His ear 
unto pity." 

' 'Blasphemous dog ! " said Vickers. " You don't believe all 
that, Meekin, do you ? " 

The parson reproved him gently. 

" Wait a moment, sir, until I have finished." 

" ' Party spirit runs very high, even in prison in Van Diemcn's Land. ! am 
sorry to say that a licentious press invariably evinces a very great degree of 
contumely, while the authorities are held in respect by all well-disposed 
persons, though it is often endeavoured by some to bring on them the 
hatred and contempt of prisoners. But I am glad to tell you that all their 



JOHN REX'S LETTER HOME. 245 

efforts are without avail ; but, nevertheless, do not read in any colonial 
newspaper. There is so much scurrility and vituperation in their produc- 
tions.' " 

" That's for your benefit, Frere," said Vickers, with a smile. 
"You remember what was said about your presence at the race 
meetings ? " 

" Of course," said Frere. " Artful scoundrel ! Go on, Mr. 
Meekin, pray." 

" ' I am aware that you will hear accounts of cruelty and tyranny, said, by 
the malicious and the evil-minded haters of the Government and Govern- 
ment officials, to have been inflicted by gaolers on convicts. To be candid, 
this is not the dreadful place it has been represented to be by vindictive 
writers. Severe flogging and heavy chaining is sometimes used, no doubt, 
but only in rare cases ; and nominal punishments are marked out by law 
for slight breaches of discipline. So far as I have an opportunity of judg- 
ing, the lash is never bestowed unless merited.' " 

" As far as he is concerned, I don't doubt it ! " said Frere, 
cracking a walnut. 

" ' The texts of Scripture quoted by our chaplain have comforted me much, 
and I have much to be grateful for ; for after the rash attempt I made to 
secure my freedom, I have reason to be thankful for the mercy shown to 
me. Death — dreadful death of soul and body — would have been my por- 
tion ; but, by the mercy of Omnipotence, I have been spared to repentance 
—John iii. I have now come to bitterness. The chaplain, a pious gentle- 
man, says it never really pays to steal. "Lay up for yourselves treasures 
in Heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt.'' Honesty is the best 
policy, I am convinced, and I would not for ^1,000 repeat my evil courses 
— Psalm xxxviii. 14. When I think of the happy days I once passed with 
good Mr. Blick, in the old house in Blue Anchor Yard, and reflect that since 
that happy time I have recklessly plunged in sin, and stolen goods and 
watches, studs, rings, and jewellery, become, indeed, a common thief, I 
tremble with remorse, and fly to prayer — Psalm v. Oh what sinners we are ! 
Let me hope that now I, by God's blessing placed beyond temptation, will live 
safely, and that some day I even may, by the will of the Lord Jesus, find 
mercy for my sins. Some kind of madness has method in it, but madness 
of sin holds us without escape. Such is, dear father, then, my hope and 
trust for my remaining life here — Psalm c. 74. I owe my bodily well-being 
to Captain Maurice Frere, who was good enough to speak of my conduct in 
reference to the Osprey, when, with Shires, Barker, and others, we captured 
that vessel. Pray for Captain Frere, my dear father. He is a good man, 
and though his public duty is painful and trying to his feelings, yet, as a 
public functionary, he could not allow his private feelings, whether of mercy 
or revenge, to step between him and his duty.' " 



246 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

" Confound the rascal ! " said Frere, growing crimson. 

*' ' Remember me most affectionately to Sarah and little William, and all 
friends who yet cherish the recollection of me, and bid them take warning 
by my fate, and keep from evil courses. A good conscience is better than 
gold, and no amount can compensate for the misery incident to a return to 
crime. Whether I shall ever see you again, dear father, is more+han un- 
certain ; for my doom is life, unless the Government alter their plans con- 
cerning me, and allow me an opportunity to earn my freedom by hard 
work. 

" 'The blessing of God rest with you, my dear father ; and that you may 
be washed white in the blood of the Lamb is the prayer of your 

" ' Unfortunate Son, 

" 'John Rex 

"'P.S. — Though your sins be as scarlet (hey shall be whiter than snow." 

" Is that all ?" said Frere. 

" That is all, sir, and a very touching letter it is." 

" So it is," said Frere. " Now let me have it a moment, 
Mr. Meekin." 

He took the paper, and referring to the numbers of the texts 
which he had written in his pocket-book, began to knit his 
brows over Mr. John Rex's impious and hypocritical production. 
" I thought so," he said, at length. " Those texts were never 
written for nothing. It's an old trick, but cleverly done." 

" What do you mean ? " said Meekin. 

" Mean ! " cries Frere, with a smile at his own acuteness. 
" This precious composition contains a very gratifying piece of 
intelligence for Mr. Blick, whoever he is. Some receiver, I've 
no doubt. Look here, Mr. Meekin. Take the letter and this 
pencil, and begin at the first text. The 102nd Psalm, from the 
4th verse to the 12th inclusive, doesn't he say? Very good ; 
that's nine verses, isn't it ? Well, now, underscore nine consecu- 
tive words from the second word immediately following the next 
text quoted, ' I hare hope] etc. Have you got it ? " 

" Yes," says Meekin, astonished, while all heads bent over the 
table. 

" Well, now, his text is the eighteenth verse of the thirty -fifth 
Psalm, isn't it ? Count eighteen words on, then underscore five 
consecutive ones. You've done that ? " 

"A moment — sixteen— seventeen — eighteen, ' authorities? 1 

" Count and score in the same way until you come to the 



JOHN REX'S LETTER HOME. 24 J 

word 'Texts' somewhere. Vickers, I'll trouble you for tha 
claret." 

" Yes," said Meekin after a pause. " Here it is — \ the texts ot 
Scripture quoted by our chaplain.' But surely Mr. Frere- " 

" Hold on a bit now," cries Frere. "What's the next quota- 
tion ? — John iii. That's every third word. Score every third 
word beginning with ' I ' immediately following the text, now, 
until you come to a quotation. Got it ? How many words in it ?" 

" ' Lay up for yourselves treasures in Heaven, where neither 
moth nor rust doth corrupt,'" said Meekin, a little scandalized, 
" Fourteen words." 

"Count fourteen words on, then, and score the fourteenth. 
I'm up to this text-quoting business." 

" The word ' ;£ 1,000,' " said Meekin. " Yes." 

"Then there's another text. Thirty-eighth— isn't it?— Psalm 
and the fourteenth verse. Do that the same way as the other — 
count fourteen words, and then score eight in succession. 
Where does that bring you?" 

" The fifth Psalm." 

" Every fifth word then. Go on, my dear sir — go on. ' Method' 
of 'escape,' yes. The hundredth Psalm means a full stop. 
What verse ? Seventy-four. Count seventy-four words and 
score." 

There was a pause for a few minutes while Mr. Meekin counted. 
The letter had really turned out interesting. 

" Read out your marked words now, Meekin. Let's see if I'm 
right." 

Mr. Meekin read with gradually crimsoning face : — 

"'I have hopes even in this my desolate condition ... in 
prison Van Diemen's Land . . . the authorities are held in . . . 
hatred and contempt of prisoners . . . read in any colonial 
newspaper . . . accounts of cruelty and tyranny . . . inflicted 
by gaolers on convicts . . . severe flogging and heavy chaining 
. . . for slight breaches of discipline : . I . . . come . . . 
the pious . . . it . . . pays . . . ^1,000 . . . in the old house in 
Blue Anchor Yard . . . stolen goods and watches studs rings 
and jewellery . . . are . . . now . . . placed . . . safely . . • 
I . . . will . . . find . . . some . . . method of . . . escape 
. . . then . . . for . . . revenge." 

" Well," said Maurice, looking round with a grin, " what do 
you think of that ? " 



243 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

" Most remarkable ! " said Mr. Pounce. 

" How did you find it out, Frere? " 

" Oh, it's nothing,^ says Frere ; meaning that it was a great 
deal. " I've studied a good many of these things, and this one is 
clumsy to some I've seen. But it's pious, isn't it, Meekin ? " 

Mr. Meekin arose in wrath. 

" It's very ungracious on your part, Captain Frere. A capital 
joke, I have no doubt ; but permit me to say I do not like jest- 
ing on such matters. This poor fellow's letter to his aged father 
to be made the subject of heartljss merriment, I confess I do 
not understand. It was confided to me in my sacred character 
as a Christian pastor." ^^ 

" That's just it. The fellows play upon the parsons, excuse 
me, don't you know, and under' cover of your ' sacred character,' 
play all kinds of pranks. How the dog must have chuckled 
when he gave you that ! " 

" Captain Frere," said Mr. Meekin, changing colour like a 
chameleon with indignation and rage, "your interpretation is, I 
am convinced, an incorrect one. How could the poor man 
compose such an ingenious piece of cryptography ? " 

" If you mean, fake up that paper," returned Frere, uncon- 
sciously dropping into prison slang, " I'll tell you. He had a 
Bible, I suppose, while he was writing ? " 

" I certainly permitted him the use of the Sacred Volume, 
Captain Frere. I should have judged it inconsistent with the 
character of my Office to have refused it to him." 

" Of course. And that's just where you parsons are always 
putting your foot into it. If you'd put your ' Office ' into your 
pocket and open your eyes a bit " 

" Maurice ! My dear Maurice ! " 

" I beg your pardon, Meekin," says Maurice, with clumsy 
apology ; " but / know these fellows. I've lived among 'em, I 
came out in a ship with 'em, I've talked with 'em, and drank with 
'em, and I'm down to all their moves, don't you see. The Bible 
is the only book they get hold of, and texts are the only bits 
of learning ever taught 'm, and being chockfull of villainy and 
plots and conspiracies, what other book should they make use 
of to aid their infernal schemes but the one that the chaplain has 
made a text-book of for 'em ? " And Maurice rose in disgust, 
not unmixed with self-laudation. 

" Pear me, it is really very terrible," said Meekin, who was 



JOHY REX'S LETTER HOME. 249 



not ill-meaning, but only self-complacent — "very terrible in- 
deed." 

" But unhappily true," said Mr. Pounce. " An olive? Thanks." 

" Upon me soul ! " burst out honest McNab, " the hail see- 
stem seems to be maist ill-calculated tae advance the wark o" 
reeformation." 

"Mr. McNab, I'll trouble you for the port," said equally 
honest Vickers, bound hand and foot in the chains of the rules 
of the service. And so, what seemed likely to become a 
dangerous discussion upon convict discipline, was stifled judi- 
ciously at the birth. But Sylvia, prompted, perhaps by curiosity, 
perhaps by a desire to modify the parson's chagrin, in passing 
Mr. Meekin, took up the " confession," that lay unopened beside 
his wine glass, and bore it off. 

" Come, Mr. Meekin," said Vickers, when the door closed 
behind the ladies, "help yourself. I am sorry the letter turned 
out so strangely, but you may rely on Frere, I assure you. He 
knows more about convicts than any man on the island." 

" I see, Captain Frere, that you have made a study of the 
criminal classes." 

" So I have, my dear sir, and know every turn and twist 
among 'em. I tell you my maxim. It's some French fellow's 
too, I believe, but that don't matter — divide to conquer. Set 
all the clogs spying on each other." 

" Oh ! " said Meekin. 

" It's the only way. Why, my dear sir, if the prisoners were 
as faithful to each other as we arc, we couldn't hold the island 
a week. It's just because no man can trust his neighbour that 
every mutiny falls to the ground." 

" I suppose it must be so," said poor Meekin. 

" It is so ; and, by George, sir, if I had my way, I'd have it 
so that no prisoner should say a word to his right hand man, 
but his left hand man should tell me of it. I'd promote the 
men that peached, and make the beggars their own warders. 
Ha. ha!" 

" But such a course, Captain Frere, though perhaps useful in 
a certain way, would surely produce harm. It would excite the 
worst passions of our fallen nature, and lead to endless lying 
and tyranny. I'm sure it would." 

" Wait a bit," cries Frere. " Perhaps, one of these days, I'll 
get a chance, and then I'll try it. Convicts I By the Lord 



250 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

Harry, sir, there's only one way to treat 'em ; give 'em tobacco 
when they behave 'emselves, and flog 'em when they don't." 

" Terrible ! " says the clergyman with a shudder. " You 
speak of them as if they were wild beasts.* 

" So they are," said Maurice Frere, calmly. 



CHAPTER X. 

WHAT BECAME OF THE MUTINEERS OF THE " OSPREY." 

AT the bottom of the long luxuriant garden-ground was a 
rustic seat abutting upon the low wall that topped the 
lane. The branches of the English trees (planted long 
ago) hung above it, and between their rustling boughs one could 
see the reach of the silver river. Sitting with her face to the 
bay and her back to the house, Sylvia opened the manuscript she 
had carried off from Meekin, and began to read. It was written 
in a firm, large hand, and headed — 

"A NARRATIVE 

" Of the sufferings and adventures of certain of 
the ten convicts who seized the brig " osprey," 
at Macquarie Harbour, in Van Diemen's Land, 
related by one of the said convicts while lying 
under sentence for this offence in the gaol at 
Hobart Town." 

Sylvia, having read this grandiloquent sentence, paused for a 
moment. The story of the mutiny, which had been the chief 
event of her childhood, lay before her, and it seemed to her 
that, were it related truly, she should comprehend something 
strange and terrible, which had been for many years a shadow 
upon her memory. Longing, and yet fearing, to proceed, she 
held the paper, half unfolded, in her hand, as, in her childhood, 
she had held ajar the door of some dark room, into which she 
longed and yet feared to enter. Her timidity lasted but an 
instant. 

• • • • • 



WHAT BECAME OF THE MUTINEERS. 251 

" When orders arrived from head-quarters to break up the 
penal settlement of Macquarie Harbour, the Commandant 
(Major Vickers, — th Regiment) and most of the prisoners 
embarked on board a colonial vessel, and set sail for Hobart 
Town, leaving behind them a brig that had been built at Mac- 
quarie Harbour, to be brought round after them, and placing 
Captain Maurice Frere in command. Left aboard her was 
Mr. Bates, who had acted as pilot at the settlement, also four 
soldiers, and ten prisoners, as a crew to work the vessel. The 
Commandant's wife and child were also aboard." 
***** 

" How strangely it reads," thought the girl. 

***** 

"On the 12th of January, 1834, we set sail, and in the after- 
noon anchored safely outside the Gates ; but a breeze setting in 
from the north-west, caused a swell on the Bar, and Mr. Bates 
ran back to Wellington Bay. We remained there all next day ; 
and in the afternoon Captain Frere took two soldiers and a 
boat, and went a-fishing. There were then only Mr. Bates and 
the other two soldiers aboard, and it was proposed by William 
Cheshire to seize the vessel. I was at first unwilling, thinking 
that loss of life might ensue ; but Cheshire and the others, 
knowing that I was acquainted with navigation — having in 
happier days lived much on the sea — threatened me if I refused 
to join. A song was started in the folksle, and one of the 
soldiers coming to listen to it, was seized, and Lyon and Riley 
then made prisoner of the sentry. Forced thus into a project 
with which I had at first but little sympathy, I felt my heart 
leap at the prospect of freedom, and would have sacrificed all 
to obtain it. Maddened by the desperate hopes that inspired 
me, I from that moment assumed the command of my wretched 
companions ; and honestly think, that however culpable I may 
have been in the eyes of the law, I prevented them from the 
display of a violence to which their savage life had unhappily 
made them but too accustomed." 

***** 

" Poor fellow," said Sylvia, beguiled by Master Rex's specious 
paragraphs, " I think he was not to blame." 

***** 

" Mr. Bates was below in the cabin, and on being summoned 
by Cheshire to surrender, with great courage attempted a 



252 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



defence. Barker fired at him through the skylight, but fearful 
of the lives of the Commandant's wife and child, I struct up 
his musket, and the ball passed through the mouldings of the 
stern windows. At the same time, the soldiers whom we had 
bound in the folksle forced up the hatch and came on deck. 
Cheshire shot the first one, and struck the other with his clubbed 
musket. The wounded man lost his footing, and the brig 
lurching with the rising tide, he fell into the sea. This was — 
by the blessing of God— the only life lost in the whole affair. 

" Mr. Bates, seeing now that we had possession of the deck, 
surrendered, upon promise that the Commandant's wife and 
child should be put ashore in safety. I directed him to take 
such matters as he needed, and prepared to lower the jolly- 
boat. As she swung off the davits, Captain Frere came along- 
side in the whale-boat, and gallantly endeavoured to board us, 
but the boat drifted past the vessel. I was now determined to 
be free — indeed, the minds of all on board were made up to 
carry through the business — and hailing the whale-boat, swore 
to fire into her unless she surrendered. Captain Frere refused, 
and was for boarding us again, but the two soldiers joined with 
us, and prevented his intention. Having now got the prisoners 
into the jolly-boat, we transferred Captain Frere into her, and 
being ourselves in the whale-boat, compelled Captain Frere 
and Mr. Bates to row ashore. We then took the jolly-boat in 
tow, and returned to the brig, a strict watch being kept for fear 
that they should rescue the vessel from us. 

" At break of day every man was upon deck, and a consul- 
tation took place concerning the parting of the provisions. 
Cheshire was for leaving them to starve, but Lesly, Shires, and 
I held out for an equal division. After a long and violent 
controversy, Humanity gained the day, and the provisions were 
put into the whale-boat, and taken ashore. Upon the receipt 
of the provisions, Mr. Bates thus expressed himself : ' Men, I 
did not for one moment expect such kind treatment from you, 
regarding the provisions you have now brought ashore for us, 
out of so little which there was on board. When I consider 
your present undertaking, without a competent navigator, and 
in a leaky vessel, your situation seems most perilous ; therefore 
I hope God will prove kind to you, and preserve you from the 
manifold dangers you may have to encounter on the stormy 
qcean.' Mrs. Vicker? also was pleased to say that I had 



WHAT BECAME OE THE MUTINEERS. 253 

behaved kindly to her, that she wished me well, and that when 
she returned to Hobart Town she would speak in my favour. 
They then cheered us on our departure, wishing we might be 
prosperous on account of our humanity in sharing the provi- 
sions with them. 

" Having had breakfast, we commenced throwing overboard 
the light cargo which was in the hold, which employed us until 
dinner-time. After dinner we ran out a small kedge-anchor 
with about one hundred fathoms of line, and having weighed 
anchor, and the tide being slack, we hauled on the kedge-line, 
and succeeded in this manner by hedging along, and we came 
to two islands, called the Cap and Bonnet. The whole of us 
then commenced heaving the brig short, sending the whale-boat 
to lake her in tow, after we had nipped the anchor. By this 
means we got her safe across the bar. Scarcely was this done 
when a light breeze sprang up from the south-west, and firing a 
musket to apprize the party we had 'oft of our safety, we made 
sail and put out to sea."' 

Having read thus far, Sylvia paused in an agony of recollec- 
tion. She remembered the firing of the musket, and that her 
mother had wept over her. But beyond this all was uncer- 
tainty. Memories slipped across her mind like shadows — she 
caught at them, and they were gone. Yet the reading of this 
strange story made her nerves thrill. Despite the hypocritical 
grandiloquence and affected piety of the narrative, it was easy 
to see that, save some warping of facts to make for himself 
a better case, and to extol the courage of the gaolers who had 
him at their mercy, the narrator had not attempted to letter his 
tale by the invention of perils. The history of the asperate 
project that had been planned and carried out five years before, 
was related with grim simplicity which, (because it at once 
bears the stamp of truth, and forces the imagination of the 
reader to supply the omitted details of horror), is more effective 
to inspire sympathy than elaborate description. The very 
barrenness of the narration was hideously suggestive, and the 
girl felt her heart beat quicker as her poetic intellect rushed to 
complete the terrible picture sketched by the convict. She saw 
it all — the blue sea, the burning sun, the slowly moving ship, 

the wretched company on the shore ; she heard Was that 

a rustling in the bushes below her ? A bird ! How nervous 
she was growing ! 



254 HIS NATURAI LIFE. 

" Being thus fairly rid — as we thought — of our prison life, we 
cheerfully held consultation as to our future course. It was my 
intention to get among the islands in the South Seas, and 
scuttling the brig, to pass ourselves off among the natives as 
shipwrecked seamen, trusting ^o-€rod > sTlTeTcy~that some home- 
ward bound vessel might at length rescue us. With this view, 
I made James Lesly first mate, he being an experienced 
mariner, and prepared myself, with what few instruments we 
had, to take our departure from Birches Rock. Having hauled 
the whale-boat alongside, we stove her, together with the jolly- 
boat, and cast her adrift. This done, I parted the landsmen 
with the seamen, and, steering east south-east, at eight p.m. we 
set our first watch. In little more than an hour after this, came 
on a heavy gale from the south-west. I, and others of the 
landsmen, were violently sea-sick, and Lesly had some diffi- 
culty in handling the brig, as the boisterous weather called for 
two men at the helm. In the morning, getting upon deck with 
difficulty, I found that the wind had abated, but upon sounding 
the well discovered much water in the hold. Lesly rigged the 
pumps, but the starboard one only could be made to work. 
From that time there were but two businesses aboard — from the 
pump to the helm. The gale lasted two days and a night, the 
brig running under close-reefed topsails, we being afraid to 
shorten sail, lest we might be overtaken by some pursuing 
vessel, so strong was the terror of our prison upon us. 

" On the 1 6th, at noon, I again forced myself on deck, and 
taking a meridian observation, altered the course of the brig to 
east and by south, wishing to run to the southward of New 
Zealand, out of the usual track of shipping ; and having a notion 
that, should our provisions hold out, we might make the South 
American coast, and fall into Christian hands. This done, I 
was compelled to retire below, and for a week lay in my berth 
as one at the last gasp. At times I repented of my resolution, 
Fair urging me to bestir myself, as the men were not satisfied 
with our course. On the 21st a mutiny occurred, led by Lyons, 
who asserted we were heading into the Pacific, and must 
infallibly perish. This disaffected man, though ignorant of 
navigation, insisted upon steering to the south, believing that 
we had run to the northward of the Friendly Islands, and was 
for running the ship ashore and beseeching the protection of 
the natives. Lesly in vain protested that a southward course 



WHAT BECAME OF THE MUTINEERS. 2$$ 

would bring us into icefields. Barker, who had served on . 
board a whaler, strove to convince the mutineers that the 
temperature of such latitudes was too warm for such an error 
to escape us. After much noise, Lyons rushed to the helm, and 
Russen, drawing one of the pistols taken from Mr. Bates, shot 
him dead, upon which the others returned to their duty. This 
dreadful deed was, I fear, necessary to the safety of the brig ; 
and had it occurred on board a vessel manned by freemen, 
would have been applauded as a stern but needful measure. 

" Forced by these tumults upon deck, I made a short speech 
to the crew, and convinced them that I was competent to per- 
form what I had promised to do, though at the time my heart 
inwardly failed me, and I longed for some sign of land. Sup- 
ported at each arm by Lesly and Barker, I took an observation, 
and altered our course to north by east, the brig running eleven 
knots an hour under single-reefed topsails, and the pumps hard 
at work. So we ran until the 31st of January, when a white 
squall took us, and nearly proved fatal to all aboard. 

" Lesly now committed a great error, for, upon the brig 
righting, (she was thrown upon her beam ends, and her spanker 
boom carried away,) he commanded to furl the fore-top sail, 
strike top-gallant yards, furl the main course, and take a reef in 
the maintopsail, leaving her to scud under single-reefed main- 
topsail and fore-sail. This caused the vessel to leak to that 
degree that I despaired of reaching land in her, and prayed to 
the Almighty to send us speedy assistance. For nine days and 
nights the storm continued, the men being utterly exhausted. 
One of the two soldiers whom we had employed to fish the two 
pieces of the spanker boom, with some quartering that we had, 
was washed overboard and drowned. Our provision was now 
nearly done, but the gale abating on the ninth day, we hastened 
to put provisions on the launch. The sea was heavy, and we 
were compelled to put a purchase on the fore and main yards, 
with preventers to windward, to ease the launch in going over 
the side. We got her fairly ailoat at last, the others battening 
down the hatches in the brig. Having dressed ourselves in tha 
clothes of Captain Frere and the pilot, we left the brig at sun- 
down, lying with her channel plates nearly under water. 

" The wind freshening during the night, our launch, which 
might, indeed, be termed a long-boat, having been fitted with 
mast, bowsprit, and main boom, began to be very uneasy, ship- 



256 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

ping two seas one after the other. The plan we could devise 
was to sit, four of us about, in the stern sheets, with our backs 
to the sea, to prevent the water pooping us. This itself was 
enough to exhaust the strongest men. The day, however, made 
us some amends for the dreadful night. Land was not more 
than ten miles from us^appToaching as nearly as we could with 
safety, we hauled our wind, and ran along it, trusting to find 
some harbour. At half-past two we sighted a bay of very 
curious appearance, having two large rocks at the entrance, 
resembling pyramids. Shires, Russen, and Fair landed, in 
hopes of discovering fresh water, of which we stood much in 
need. Before long they returned, stating that they had found 
an Indian hut, inside of which were some rude earthenware 
vessels. Fearful of surprise, we lay off the shore all that night, 
and putting into the bay very early in the morning, killed a 
seal. This was the first fresh meat I had tasted for four years. 
It seemed strange to eat it under such circumstances. We 
cooked the flippers, heart, and liver for breakfast, giving some 
to a cat which we had taken with us out of the brig, for I would 
not, willingly, allow even that animal to perish. After break- 
fast, we got under weigh ; and we had scarcely been out half 
an hour when we had a fresh breeze, which carried us along at 
the rate of seven knots an hour, running from bay to bay to find 
inhabitants. Steering along the shore, as the sun went down, 
we suddenly heard the bellowing of a bullock, and James 
Barker, whom, from his violent conduct, I thought incapable oi 
such sentiment, burst into tears. 

" In about two hours we perceived great fires on the beach 
and let go the anchor in nineteen fathoms of water. We lay 
awake all that night. In the morning, we rowed further 
inshore, and moored the boat to some sea *eed. As soon as the 
inhabitants caught sight of us, they came down to the beach. 
I distributed needles and thread among the Indians, and on 
saying ' Valdivia,' a woman instantly pointed towards a tongue 
of land to the southward, holding up three fingers, and crying 
' leaghos I ' which I conjectured to be three leagues ; the dis- 
tance we afterwards found it to be. 

" About three o'clock in the afternoon, we weathered the 
point pointed out by the woman, and perceived a flagstaff and 
a twelve-gun battery under our lee. I now divided among the 
men the sum of six pounds ten shillings that I had found in 



WHAT BECAME OF THE MUTINEERS. 257 

Captain Frere's cabin, and made another and more equal dis- 
tribution of the clothing. There were also two watches, one of 
which I gave to Lesly, and kept the other for myself. It was 
resolved among us to say that we were part crew of the brig 
Julia, bound for China and wrecked in the South Seas. Upon 
landing at the battery, we were received with the greatest 
civility by the Spaniards, and were heartily entertained, though 
we did not understand one word of what they said. Next 
morning, it was agreed that Lesly, Barker, Shires, and Russen 
should pay for a canoe to convey them to the town, which was 
nine miles up the river ; and on the morning of the 6th March 
they took their departure. On the 9th March, a boat, com- 
manded by a lieutenant, came down with orders that the rest of 
us should be conveyed to town ; and we accordingly launched 
the boat under convoy of the soldiers, and reached the town the 
same evening, in some trepidation. I feared lest the Spaniards 
had obtained a clue as to our real character, and was not 
deceived — the surviving soldier having betrayed us. This 
fellow was thus doubly a traitor — first, in deserting his officer, 
and then in betraying his comrades. 

"We were immediately escorted to prison, where we found 
our four companions. Some of them were for brazening out the 
story of shipwreck, but knowing how confused must necessarily 
be our accounts, were we examined separately, I persuaded 
them that open confession would be our best chance of safety. 
On the 14th we were taken before the Intendente or Governor, 
who informed us that we were free, on condition that we chose 
to live within the limits of the town. At this intelligence I felt 
my heart grow light, and only begged in the name of my com- 
panions that we might not be given up to the British Govern- 
ment ; 'rather than which,' said I, 'I would beg to be shot 
dead in the palace square.' The Governor regarded us with 
tears in his eyes, and spoke as follows : ' My poor men, do not 
think that I would take that advantage over you. Do not make 
an attempt to escape, and I will be your friend ; and should a 
vessel come to-morrow to demand you, you shall find I will be 
as good as my word. All I have to impress upon you is, to 
beware of intemperance, which is very prevalent in this country, 
and when you find it convenient, to pay Government the money 
that was allowed you for subsistence while in prison.' 

" The following day we all procured employment in launching 

17 



258 HIS NA TURAL LIFE. • ' 

a vessel of three hundred tons burden, and my men showed 
themselves so active that the owner said he would rather have 
us than thirty of his own countrymen ; which saying pleased 
the Governor, who was there with almost the whole of the 
inhabitants and a whole band of music, this vessel having been 
nearly three years on the stocks. After she was launched, the 
seamen amcngst us helped to fit her out, being paid fifteen 
dollars a month, with provisions on board. As for myself, I 
speedily obtained employment in the shipbuilder's yard, and 
subsisted by honest industry, almost forgetting, in the unwonted 
pleasures of freedom, the sad reverse of fortune which had 
befallen me. To think that I, who had mingled among gentle- 
men and scholars, should be thankful to labour in a shipwright's 
yard by day, and sleep on a bundle of hides by night ! But 
this is personal matter, and need not be obtruded. 

" In the same yard with me worked the soldier who had 
betrayed us, and I could not but regard it as a special judg- 
ment of Heaven, when he one day fell from a great height 
and was taken up for dead, dying in much torment in a few 
hours. The days thus passed on in comparative happiness 
until the 20th of May, 1836, when the old Governor took his 
departure, regretted by all the inhabitants of Valdivia, and the 
Achilles, a one-and-twenty-gun brig of war, arrived with the 
new Governor. One of the first acts of this gentleman was to 
sell our boat, which was moored at the back of Government- 
house. This proceeding looked to my mind indicative of ill- 
will ; and, fearful lest the Governor should deliver us again into 
bondage, I resolved to make my escape from the place. Hav- 
ing communicated my plans to Barker, Lesly, Riley, Shiers, 
and Russen, I offered the Governor to get built for him a hand- 
some whale-boat, making the iron work myself. The Governor 
consented, and in a little more than a fortnight we had completed 
a four-oared whale-boat, capable of weathering either sea or 
storm. We fitted her with sails and provisions in the Gover- 
nor's name, and on the 4th of July, being a Saturday night, we 
took our departure from Valdivia, dropping down the river 
shortly after sunset. Whether the Governor, disgusted at the 
trick we had played him, decided not to pursue us, or whether 
— as I rather think — our absence was not discovered until the 
Monday morning, when we were beyond reach of capture, I 
know not, but we got out to sea without hazard, and, taking 



WHA T BECAME OF THE MUTINEERS. 259 

accurate bearings, ran for the Friendly Islands, as had been 
agreed upon amongst us. 

" But it now seemed that the good fortune which had hitherto 
attended us had deserted us, for after crawling for four days in 
sultry weather, there fell a dead calm, and we lay like a log 
upon the sea for forty-eight hours. For three days we remained 
in the midst of the ocean, exposed to the burning rays of the 
sun, in a boat without water or provisions. On the fourth day, 
just as we had resolved to draw lots to determine who should 
die for the sustenance of the others, we were picked up by an 
opium clipper returning to Canton. The captain, an American, 
was most kind to us, and on our arrival at Canton, a subscrip- 
tion was got up for us by the British merchants of that city, and 
a free passage to England obtained for us. Russen, however, 
getting in drink, made statements which brought suspicion upon 
us. I had imposed upon the Consul with a fictitious story of a 
wreck, but had stated that my name was Wilson, forgetting that 
the sextant which had been preserved in the boat had Captain 
Bates's name engraved upon it. These circumstances together 
caused sufficient doubts in the Consul's mind to cause him to 
give directions that, on our arrival in London, we were to be 
brought before the Thames Police Court. There being no 
evidence against us, we should have escaped, had not a Dr. 
Pine, who had been surgeon on board the Malabar transport, 
being in the Court, recognized me and swore, to my identity. 
We were remanded, and, to complete the chain of evidence, 
Mr. Capon, the Hobart Town gaoler, was, strangely enough, in 
London at the time, and identified us all. Our story was then 
made public, and Barker and Lesly, turning king's evidence 
against Russen, he was convicted of the murder of Lyons, and 
executed. We were then placed on board the Leviathan hulk, 
and remained there until shipped in the Lady Jane, which was 
chartered, with convicts, for Van Diemen's Land, in order to be 
tried in the colony, where the offence was committed, for 
piratically seizing the brig Osprey, and arrived here on the 15th 
December, 1838." 

***** 

Coming, breathless, to the conclusion of this wonderful rela- 
tion, Sylvia suffered her hand to fall into her lap, and sat medi- 
tative. The history of this desperate struggle for liberty was 
to her full of a vague horror. She had never before realized 



260 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

among what manner of men she had lived. The sullen crea- 
tures who worked in the chain-gangs, or pulled in the boats — 
their faces brutalized into a uniform blankness — must be very- 
different men from John Rex and his companions. Her 
imagination pictured the voyage in the leaky brig, the South 
American slavery, the midnight escape, the desperate rowing, 
the long, slow agony of starvation, and the heart-sickness 
that must have followed^jrpon recapture and imprisonment. 
Surely the punishment of " penal servitude " must have been 
made very terrible for men to dare such hideous perils to 
escape from it. Surely John Rex, the convict, who, alone, and 
prostrated by sickness, quelled a mutiny and navigated a vessel 
through a storm-ravaged ocean, must possess qualities which 
could be put to better use than stone-quarrying. Was the 
opinion of Maurice Frere the correct one after all, and were 
these convict monsters gifted with unnatural powers of endur- 
ance, only to be subdued and tamed by unnatural and inhuman 
punishments of lash and chain ? Her fancies growing amid the 
fast gathering gloom, she shuddered as she guessed to what 
extremities of evil might such men proceed did an opportunity 
ever come to them to retaliate upon their gaolers. Perhaps 
beneath each mask of servility and sullen fear that was the 
ordinary prison face, lay hid a courage and a despair as mighty 
as that which sustained those ten poor wanderers over the 
Pacific Sea. Maurice had told her that these people had their 
secret signs, their secret language. She had just seen a speci- 
men of the skill with which this very Rex — still bent upon 
escape — could send a hidden message to his friends beneath 
the eyes of his gaolers. What if the whole island was but one 
smouldering volcano of revolt and murder — the whole convict 
population but one incarnated conspiracy, engendered and 
bound together by the hideous Freemasonry of crime and 
suffering ! Terrible to think of— yet not impossible. 

Oh, how strangely must the world have been civilised, that 
this most lovely corner of it must needs be set apart as a place 
of banishment for the monsters that civilization had brought 
forth and bred ! She cast her eyes around, and all beauty 
seemed blotted out from the scene before her. The graceful 
foliage melting into indistinctness in the gathering twilight, 
appeared to her horrible and treacherous. The river seemed 
to flow sluggishly, as though thickened with blood and tears. 



WHA T BECAME OF THE MUTINEERS. z6i 

The shadow of the trees seemed to hold lurking shapes of 
cruelty and danger. Even the whispering breeze bore with it 
sighs, and threats, and mutterings of revenge. Oppressed by a 
terror of loneliness, she hastily caught up the manuscript, and 
turned to seek the house, when, as if summoned from the earth 
by the power of her own fears, a ragged figure barred her 
passage. 

To the excited girl this apparition seemed the embodiment of 
the unknown evil she had dreaded. She recognised the yellow 
clothing, and marked the eager hands outstretched to seize her. 
Instantly upon her Hashed the story that three days since had 
set the prison-town agog. The desperado of Port Arthur, the 
escaped mutineer and murderer, was before her, with unchained 
arms, free to wreak his will of her. 

" Sylvia ! It is you ! Oh, at last ! I have escaped, and 
come to ask What? Do you not know me?" 

Pressing both hands to her bosom, she stepped back a pace, 
speechless with terror. 

" I am Rums Dawes," he said, looking in her face for the 
grateful smile of recognition that did not come — " Rums 
Dawes." 

The party at the house had finished their wine, and, sitting 
on the broad verandah, were listening to some gentle dulness 
of the clergyman, when there broke upon their ears a cry. 

" What's that ?" said Vickcrs. 

Frcre sprang up, and looked down the garden. He saw 
two figures that seemed to struggle together. One glance was 
enough, and, with a shout, he leapt the flower-beds, and made 
straight at the escaped prisoner. 

Rufus Dawes saw him coming, but, secure in the protection 
of the girl who owed to him so much, he advanced a step 
nearer, and, loosing his respectful clasp of her hand, caught 
her dress. 

" Oh, help, Maurice, help ! " cried Sylvia again. 

Into the face of Rufus Dawes came an expression of horror- 
stricken bewilderment. For three days the unhappy man had 
contrived to keep life and freedom, in order to get speech wnii 
the one being who, he thought, cherished for him some affec- 
tion. Having made an unparalleled escape from the midst of 
his warders, he had crept to the place where lived the idol of 
his dreams, braving recapture, that he might hear from her 



262 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

two words of justice and gratitude. Not only did she refuse to 
listen to him, and shrink from him as from one accursed, but, 
at the sound of his name, she summoned his deadliest foe to 
capture him. Such monstrous ingratitude was almost beyond 
belief. She, too— the child he had nursed and fed, the child 
for whom he had^gTvelTiaplnVJiard^arned^^iance of freedom 
and fortune, the child of whom he had dreamed, the child 
whose image he had worshipped — she, too, against him ! 
Then there was no justice, no heaven, no God ! He loosed 
his hold of her dress, and regardless of the approaching foot- 
steps, stood speechless, shaking from head to foot. In another 
instant Frere and McNab flung themselves upon him, and he 
was borne to the ground. Though weakened by starvation, he 
shook them off with scarce an effort, and, despite the servants 
who came hurrying from the alarmed house, might even then 
have turned and made good his escape. But he seemed unable 
to fly. His chest heaved convulsively, great drops of sweat 
beaded his white face, and from his eyes tears seemed about to 
break. For an instant his features worked convulsively, as if 
he would fain invoke upon the girl, weeping on her father's 
shoulder, some hideous curse. But no words came — only 
thrusting his hand into his breast, with a supreme gesture of 
horror and aversion, he flung something from him. Then a 
profound sigh escaped him, and he held out his hands to be 
bound. 

There was something so pitiable about this silent grief, that 
as they led him away, the little group instinctively averted 
their faces, lest they should seem to triumph over him. 



CHAPTER XI. 

A RELIC OF MACQUARIE HARBOUR. 

" \7' 0U must tr y and save him from further punishment," 
JL said Sylvia next day to Frere. " I did not mean to 
betray the poor creature, but I had made myself 
nervous by reading that convict's story." 

"You shouldn't read such rubbish," said Frere. "What's 
the use ? I don't suppose a word of it's true." 



A RELIC OF MACQUARIE HARBOUR. 263 

"It must be true. I am sure it's true. Oh, Maurice, these 
are dreadful men. I thought I knew all about convicts, but I 
had no idea that such men as these were among them." 

"Thank God, you know very little," said Maurice. "The 
servants you have here are very different sort of fellows from 
Rex and Company." 

" Oh, Maurice, I am so tired of this place. It's wrong, 
perhaps, with poor papa and all, but I do wish I was some- 
where out of the sight of chains and yellow cloth. I don't 
know what has made me feel as I do." 

" Come to Sydney," said Frere. " There are not so many 
convicts there. It was arranged that we should go to Sydney, 
you know." 

" For our honeymoon ? Yes,'' said Sylvia, simply. " I 
know it was. But we are not married yet." 

" That's easily done," said Maurice. 

"Oh, nonsense, sir ! But I want to speak to you about this 
poor Dawes. I don't think he meant any harm. It seems to 
me now that he was rather going to ask for food or something, 
only I was so nervous. They won't hang him, Maurice, will 
they ? " 

"No," said Maurice. " I spoke to your father this morning. 
If the fellow is tried for his life, you may have to give evidence, 
and so we came to the conclusion that Port Arthur again, and 
heavy irons, will meet the case. We gave him another life 
sentence this morning. That will make the third he has had." 

" What did he say ? " 

" Nothing. I sent him down aboard the schooner at once. 
He ought to be out of the river by this time." 

" Maurice, I have a strange feeling about that man." 

"Eh ?" said Maurice. 

" I seem to fear him, as if I knew some story about him, and 
yet didn't know it." 

" That's not very clear," said Maurice, forcing a laugh ; " but 
don't let's talk about him any more. We'll soon be far from 
Port Arthur and everybody in it." 

" Maurice," said she, caressingly, " I love you, dear. You'll 
always protect me against these men, won't you ? '' 

Maurice kissed her. " You have not got over your fright, 
Sylvia," he said. " I sec I shall have to take a great deal of 
care of my wife." 



264 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



" Of course," replied Sylvia. 

And then the pair began to make love, or" rather, Maurice 
made it, and Sylvia suffered him. 

Suddenly her eye caught something. " What's that — there, 
on the ground by the fountain ? " They were near the spot 
where Dawes had been seized the night before. A little stream 
ran through the garden, and a Triton — of convict manufacture 
— blew his horn in the middle of a — convict built — rockery. 
Under the lip of the fountain lay a small packet. Frere picked 
it up. It was made of soiled yellow cloth, and stitched 
evidently by a man's fingers. " It looks like a needle-case," 
said he. 

" Let me see. What a strange-looking thing ! Yellow cloth, 
too. Why, it must belong to a prisoner. Oh, Maurice, the 
man who was here last night ! " 

"Ay," says Maurice, turning over the packet, " it might have 
been his, sure enough." 

" He seemed to fling something from him, I thought. Perhaps 
this is it?" said she, peering over his arm, in delicate curiosity. 
Frere, with something of a scowl on his brow, tore off the outer 
covering of the mysterious packet, and displayed a second 
envelope, of grey cloth — the "good-conduct" uniform. Beneath 
this was a piece, some three inches square, of stained and 
discoloured merino, that had once been blue. 

" Hullo ! " says Frere. " Why, what's this ? " 

" It is a piece of a dress," says Sylvia. 

It was Rufus Dawes's talisman, — a portion of the frock she 
had worn at Macquarie Harbour, and which the unhappy con- 
vict had cherished as a sacred relic for five weary years. 

Frere flung it into the water. The running stream whirled it 
away. " Why did you do that ? " cried the girl, with a sudden 
pang of remorse for which she could not account. The shred 
of cloth, caught by a weed, lingered for an instant on the surface 
of the water. Almost at the same moment, the pair, raising 
their eyes, saw the schooner which bore Rufus Dawes back to 
bondage glide past the opening of the trees and disappear. 
When they looked again for the strange relic of the desperado 
of Port Arthur, it also had vanished. 



AT PORT ARTHUR. 265 



CHAPTER XII. 

AT TORT ARTHUR. 

/ "~T"MIE usual clanking and hammering was prevalent upon 
the stone jetty of Port Arthur when the schooner bearing 
the returned convict, Rufus Dawes, ran alongside. On the 
heights above the esplanade rose the grim front of the soldiers' 
barracks ; beneath the soldier's barracks was the long range of 
prison buildings, with their workshops and tan-pits ; to the left 
lay the Commandant's house, authoritative by reason of its 
embrasured terrace and guardian sentry; while the jetty, that 
faced the purple length of the " Island of the Dead," swarmed 
with parti-coloured figures, clanking about their enforced busi- 
ness, under the muskets of their gaolers. 

Rufus Dawes had seen this prospect before, had learnt by 
heart each beauty of rising sun, sparkling water, and wooded 
hill. From the hideously clean jetty at his feet, to the signal 
station, that, embowered in bloom, reared its slender arms 
upwards into the cloudless sky, he knew it all. There was no 
charm for him in the exquisite blue of the sea, the soft shadows 
of the hills, or the soothing ripple of the waves that crept 
voluptuously to the white breast of the shining shore. He sat 
with his head bowed down, and his hands clasped about his 
Li.ccc, disdaining to look until they roused him. 

" Hallo, Dawes ! " says Warder Troke, halting his train of 
ironed yellow-jackets. " So you've come back again ! Glad to 
see yer, Dawes ! It seems an age since we had the pleasure of 
your company, Dawes ! " At this pleasantry the train laughed, 
so that their irons clanked more than ever. They found it 
often inconvenient not to laugh at Mr. Troke's humour. " Step 
down here, Dawes, and let me introduce you to your h'old 
friends. They'll be glad to see yer, won't yer, boys ? Why, 
bless me, Dawes, we thort we'd lost yer ! We thort yer'd given 
us the slip altogether, Dawes. They didn't take care of yer in 
Hobart Town, I expect, eh, boys? We'll look after yer here, 
Dawes, though. You won't bolt any more." 

" Take care, Mr. Troke," said a warning voice, " you're at it 
again ! Let the man alone ! " 

By virtue of an ordej* transmitted from Hobart Town, they 



266 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

had begun to attach the dangerous prisoner to the last man of 
the gang, riveting the leg-irons of the pair by means of an 
extra link, which could be removed when necessary, but Dawes 
had given no sign of ~cons€iousn ess. ^At_^the sound of the 
friendly tones, however, he looked up, and saw a tall, gaunt 
man, dressed in a shabby pepper-and-salt raiment, and wearing 
a black handkerchief knotted round his throat. He was a 
stranger to him. 

" I beg yer pardon, Mr. North," said Troke, sinking at once 
the bully in the sneak. "I didn't see yer reverence." 

"A parson!" thought Dawes with disappointment, and 
dropped his eyes. 

" I know that," returned Mr. North, coolly. " If you had, 
you would have been all butter and honey. Don't trouble 
yourself to tell a lie ; it's quite unnecessary." 5 

Dawes looked up again. This was a strange parson. 

"What's your name, my man?" said Mr. North, suddenly, 
catching his eye. 

Rufus Dawes had intended to scowl, but the tone, sharply 
authoritative, roused his automatic convict second nature, and 
he answered, almost despite himself, " Rufus Dawes." 

" Oh," said Mr. North, eyeing him with a curious air of 
expectation that had something pitying in it. "This is the 
man, is it ? I thought he was to go to the Coal Mines." 

" So he is," said Troke, " but we hain't a goin' to send there 
for a fortnit, and in the mean time I'm to work him on the 
chain." 

" Oh ! " said Mr. North again. " Lend me your knife, 
Troke." 

And then, before them all, this curious parson took a piece 
of tobacco out of his ragged pocket, and cut off a " chaw " with 
Mr. Troke's knife. Rufus Dawes felt what he had not felt for 
three days — an interest in something. He stared at the parson 
in unaffected astonishment. Mr. North perhaps mistook the 
meaning of his fixed stare, for he held out the remnant of 
tobacco to him. 

The chain line vibrated at this, and bent forward to enjoy 
the vicarious delight of seeing another man chew tobacco. 
Troke grinned with a silent mirth that betokened retribution 
for the favoured convict. " Here," said Mr. North, holding 
out the dainty morsel upon which so many eyes were fixed. 



AT PORT ARTHUR. 267 

Rufus Dawes took the tobacco ; looked at it hungrily for an 
instant, and then — to the astonishment of everybody — flung it 
away with a curse. 

" I don't want your tobacco," he said ; " keep it." 

From convict mouths went out a respectful roar of amaze- 
ment, and Mr. Troke's eyes snapped with pride of outraged 
janitorship. " You ungrateful dog ! " he cried, raising his 
stick. 

Mr. North put up a hand. "That will do, Troke," he said ; 
" I know your respect for the cloth. Move the men on 
again." 

" Get on ! " said Troke, rumbling oaths beneath his breath, 
and Dawes felt his newly-riveted chain tug. It was some time 
since he had been in a chain gang, and the sudden jerk nearly 
overbalanced him. He caught at his neighbour, and looking 
up, met a pair of black eyes which gleamed recognition. His 
neighbour was John Rex. Mr. North, watching them, was 
struck by 'the resemblance the two men bore to each other. 
Their height, eyes, hair, and complexion were similar. Despite 
the difference in name they might be related. " They might be 
brothers," thought he. "Poor devils ! I never knew a prisoner 
refuse tobacco before." And he looked on the ground for the 
despised portion. But in vain. John Rex, oppressed by no 
foolish sentiment, had picked it up and put it in his mouth. 

So Rufus Dawes was relegated to his old life again, and 
came back to his prison with the hatred of his kind, that his 
prison had bred in him, increased a hundred-fold. It seemed 
to him that the sudden awakening had dazed him, that the 
flood of light so suddenly let in upon his slumbering soul had 
blinded his eyes, used so long to the sweetly-cheating twilight, 
lie was at first unable to apprehend the details of his misery. 
lie knew only that his dream-child was alive and shuddered at 
him, that the only thing he loved and trusted had betrayed him, 
that all hope of justice and mercy had gone from him for ever, 
that the beauty had gone from earth, the brightness from 
heaven, and that he was doomed still to live. He went about 
his work, unheedful of the jests of Troke, ungalled by his irons, 
unmindful of the groans and laughter about him. His magni- 
ficent muscles saved him from the lash ; for the amiable Troke 
tried to break him down in vain. He did not complain, he did 
not laugh, he did not weep. His "mate" Rex tried to con- 



268 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



irerse with him, but did not succeed. In the midst of one of 
Rex's excellent tales of London dissipation, Rufus Dawes would 
sigh wearily. "There's something on that fellow's mind,' 
thought Rex, prone to watch the signs by which the soul is 
read. "He has some secret which weighs upon him." 

It was in vain that Rex attempted to discover what this 
secret might be. To all questions concerning his past life — 
however artfully put— Rufus Dawes was dumb. In vain Rex 
practised all his arts, called up all his graces of manner and 
speech— and these were not few— to fascinate the silent man 
and win his confidence. Rufus Dawes met his advances with a 
cynical carelessness that revealed nothing ; and, when not 
addressed, held a gloomy silence. Galled by this indifference, 
John Rex had attempted to practise those ingenious arts of 
torment by which Gabbett, Vetch, or other leading spirits of the 
gang asserted their superiority over their quieter comrades. 
But he soon ceased. " I have been longer in this hell than 
you," said Rufus Dawes, " and I know more of the devil's tricks 
than you can show me. You had best be quiet." Rex neg- 
lected the warning, and Rufus Dawes took him by the throat 
one day, and would have strangled him, but that Troke beat off 
the angered man with a favourite bludgeon. Rex had a whole- 
some respect for personal prowess, and had the grace to admit 
the provocation to Troke. Even this instance of self-denial did 
not move the stubborn Dawes. He only laughed. 

Then Rex came to a conclusion. His mate was plotting an 
escape. He himself cherished a notion of the kind, as did 
Gabbett and Vetch, but by common distrust no one ever 
gave utterance to thoughts of this nature. It would be too dan- 
gerous. "He would be a good comrade for a rush," thought 
Rex, and resolved more firmly than ever to ally himself to this 
dangerous and silent companion. 

One question Dawes had asked which Rex had been able to 
answer : " Who is that North ? " 

" A chaplain. He is only here for a week or so. There is a 
new one coming. North goes to Sydney. He is not in favour 
with the Bishop." 

" How do you know ?" 

" By deduction," says Rex, with a smile peculiar to him. 
" He wears coloured clothes, and smokes, and doesn't patter 
Scripture. The Bishop dresses in black, detests tobacco, and 



THE COMMANDANTS BUTLER. 269 

quotes the Bible like a concordance. North is sent here for 
a month, as a warming-pan for that ass Meekin. Ergo, the 
Bishop don't care about North." 

Jemmy Vetch, who was next to Rex, let the full weight of his 
portion of tree-trunk rest upon Gabbett, in order to express his 
unrestrained admiration of Mr. Rex's sarcasm. " Ain't Dandy 
a one'er ? " said he. 

" Are you thinking of coming the pious ? " asked Rex. " It's 
no good with North. Wait until the highly-intelligent Meekin 
comes. You can twist that worthy successor of the Apostles 
round your little finger ! " 

" Silence there ! " cries the overseer. " Do you want me to 
report yer ? " 

Amid such diversions the days rolled on, and Rufus Dawes 
almost longed for the Coal Mines. To be sent from the settle- 
ment to the Coal Mines, and from the Coal Mines to the settle- 
ment, was to these unhappy men a " trip." At Port Arthur one 
went to an out station, as more fortunate people go to Queens- 
cliff or the Ocean Beach now-a-days for " change of air." 



CHAPTER XIII. 

THE COMMANDANT'S BUTLER. 



RUFUS DAWES had been a fortnight at the settlement 
when a new-comer appeared on the chain-gang. This 
was a young man of about twenty years of age, thin, fair, 
and delicate. His name was Kirkland, and he belonged to what 
were known as the " educated" prisoners. He had been a clerk 
in a banking house, and was transported for embezzlement, 
though, by some, grave doubts as to his guilt were entertained. 
The commandant, Captain Burgess, had employed him as butler 
in his own house, and his fate was considered a " lucky " one. 
So, doubtless, it was, and might have been, had not an untoward 
accident occurred. Captain Burgess, who was a bachelor of the 
"old school," confessed to an amiable weakness for blasphemy, 
and was given to condemning the convicts' eyes and limbs with 
indiscriminate violence. Kirkland belonged to a Methodist 
family and owned a piety utterly out of place in that region. 



270 HIS NATURAL LIIE. 



The language of Burgess made him shudder, and one day, he 
so far forgot himself and his place as to raise his hands to 
his ears. " My blank ! " cried Burgess. " You blank blank, is 
that your blank game ? I'll blank soon cure you of that ! " and 
forthwith ordered him to the chain-gang for " insubordination." 

He was received with suspicion by the gang, who did not like 
white-handed prisoners. Troke, by way of experiment in human 
nature, perhaps, placed him next to Gabbett. The day was got 
through in the usual way, and Kirkland felt his heart revive. 

The toil was severe, and the companionship uncouth, but 
despite his blistered hands and aching back, he had not ex- 
perienced anything so very terrible after all. When the muster 
bell rang, and the gang broke up, Rufus Dawes, on his silent 
way to his separate cell, observed a notable change of custom 
in the disposition of the new convict. Instead of placing him 
in a cell by himself, Troke was turning him into the yard with 
the others. 

"I'm not to go in there?" says the ex-bank clerk, drawing 
back in dismay from the cloud of foul faces which lowered upon 
him. 

"By the Lord, but you are, then!" says Troke. "The 
Governor says a night in there'll take the starch out of yer. 
Come, in yer go." 

" But, Mr. Troke " 

" Stow your gaff," says Troke, with another oath, and im- 
patiently striking the lad with his thong — " I can't argue here 
all night. Get in." So Kirkland, aged twenty-two, and the son 
of Methodist parents, went in. 

Rufus Dawes, among whose sinister memories this yard was 
numbered, sighed. So fierce was the glamour of the place, 
however, that when locked into his cell, he felt ashamed of that 
sigh, and strove to erase the memory of it. " What is he more 
than anybody else ? " said the wretched man to himself, as he 
hugged his misery close. 

About dawn the next morning, Mr. North — who, amongst 
other vagaries not approved of by his bishop, had a habit of 
prowling about the prison at unofficial hours — was attracted 
by a dispute at the door of the dormitory. 

" What's the matter here ? " he asked. 

"A prisoner refractory, your reverence," said the watchman. 
" Wants to come out" 



THE COMMANDANTS BUTLER. 271 



" Mr. North ! Mr. North ! " cried a voice, " for the love of 
God, let me out of this place ! " 

Kirkland, ghastly pale, bleeding, with his woollen shirt torn, 
and his blue eyes wide open with terror, was clinging to the 
bars. 

" Oh, Mr. North ! Mr. North ! Oh, Mr. North ! Oh ! for 
God's sake, Mr. North ! " 

" What, Kirkland ! " cried North, who was ignorant of the 
vengeance of the Commandant. " What do you do here ? " 

But Kirkland could do nothing but cry,—" Oh, Mr. North ! 
For God's sake, Mr. North ! " and beat on the bars with white 
and sweating hands. 

" Let him out, watchman !" said North. 
" Can't, sir, without an order from the Commandant." 
" I order you, sir ! " North cried, indignant. 
" Very sorry, your reverence ; but your reverence knows that 
I daren't do such a thing." 

" Mr. North ! " screamed Kirkland. " Would you see me 
perish, body and soul, in this place ? Mr. North ! Oh, you 
ministers of Christ— wolves in sheep's clothing— you shall be 
judged for this ! Mr. North, I say ! " 

" Let him out ! " cried North again, stamping his foot. 
" It's no good," returned the gaoler. " I can't. If he was 
dying, I can't." 

North rushed away to the Commandant, and the instant his 
back was turned, Hailes, the watchman, flung open the door, 
and darted into the dormitory. 

" Take that ! " he cried, dealing Kirkland a blow on the head 
with his keys, that stretched him senseless. " There's more 
trouble with you bloody aristocrats than enough. Lie quiet ! " 

The Commandant, roused from slumber, told Mr. North that 
Kirkland might stop where he was, and that he'd thank the 
chaplain not to wake him up in the middle of the night because 
a blank prisoner set up a blank howling. 

" But, my good sir," protested North, restraining his impulse 
to overstep the bounds of modesty in his language to his 
superior officer, "you know the character of the men in that 
ward. You can guess what that unhappy boy has suffered." 
" Impertinent young beggar ! " said Burgess. " Do him good, 
curse him ! Mr. North, I'm sorry you should have had the 
trouble to come here, but will you let me go to sleep ? " 



272 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

North returned to the prison disconsolately, found the dutiful 
Hailes at his post, and all quiet 

" What's become of Kirkland ! " he asked. 

" Fretted hisself to sleep, yer reverence," said Hailes, in 

accents of parental concern. " Poor young chap ! It's hard for 

such young 'uns as he, sir." 

/ 

In the morning, Rufus Dawes, coming to his place on the 
chain-gang, was struck by the altered appearance of Kirkland. 
His face was of a greenish tint, and wore an expression of 
bewildered horror. 

" Cheer up, man ! " said Dawes, touched with momentary 
pity. "It's no good being in the mopes, you know." 

"What do they do if you try to bolt ?" whispered Kirkland. 

" Kill you," returned Dawes, in a tone of surprise at so pre- 
posterous a question. 

" Thank God ! " said Kirkland. 

" Now, then, Miss Nancy," said one of the men, " what's the 
matter with, you / " 

Kirkland shuddered, and his pale face grew crimson. 

" Oh," he said, " that such a wretch as I should live ! " 

" Silence ! " cried Troke. " No. 44, if you can't hold your 
tongue I'll give you something to talk about. March ! " 

The work of the gang that afternoon was the carrying of 
some heavy logs to the water-side, and Rufus Dawes observed 
that Kirkland was exhausted long before the task was accom- 
plished. " They'll kill you, you little beggar ! " said he, not un- 
kindly. " What have you been doing to get into this scrape ? " 

" Have you ever been in that — that place I was in last night ? " 
asked Kirkland. 

Rufus Dawes nodded. 

" Does the Commandant know what goes on there ? " 

" I suppose so. What does he care ? " 

" Care ! Man, do you believe in a God ? !; 

"No," said Dawes, "not here. Hold up, my lad. If you 
fall, we must fall over you, and then you're done for." 

He had hardly uttered the words, when the boy flung himself 
beneath the log. In another instant the train would have been 
scrambling over his crushed body, had not Gabbett stretched 
out an iron hand, and plucked the would-be suicide from 
death. 



THE COMMANDANTS BUTLER. 



" Hold on to me, Miss Nancy," said the giant, "I'm big 
enough to carry double." 

Something in the tone or manner of the speaker affected 
Kirkland to disgust, for, spurning the offered hand, he uttered 
a cry, and then, holding up his irons with his hands, he started 
to run for the water. 

" Halt ! you young fool," roared Troke, raising his carbine. 
But Kirkland kept steadily on for the river. Just as he reached 
it, however, the figure of Mr. North rose from behind a pile of 
stones. Kirkland jumped for the jetty, missed his footing, and 
fell into the arms of the chaplain. 

" You young vermin — you shall pay for this," cries Troke. 
" You'll see if you won't remember this day." 

"Oh, Mr. North," says Kirkland. "why did you stop me? 
I'd better be dead than stay another night in that place." 

" You'll get it, my lad," said Gabbett, when the runaway was 
brought back. " Your blessed hide'll feel for this, see if it 
don't." 

Kirkland only breathed harder, and looked round for Mr. 
North, but Mr. North had gone. The new chaplain was to 
arrive that afternoon, and it was incumbent on the old one to 
be present at the reception. 

Troke reported the ex-bank clerk that night to Burgess, and 
Burgess, who was about to go to dinner with the new chaplain, 
disposed of his case out of hand. " Tried to bolt, eh ! Must 
stop that. Fifty lashes, Troke. Tell Macklewain to be ready 
— or stay, I'll tell him myself — I'll break the young devil's spirit, 
blank him." 

" Yes, sir," said Troke. " Good evening, sir." 

" Troke — pick out some likely man, will you ? That last 
fellow you had ought to have been tied up himself. His flogging 
wouldn't have killed a flea." 

" You can't get 'em to warm one another, your honour," says 
Troke. " They won't do it." 

" Oh, yes, they will, though," says Burgess, " or I'll know the 
reason why. I won't have my men knocked up with flogging 
these rascals. If the scourger won't do his duty, tie him up, 
and give him five-and-twenty for himself. I'll be down in the 
morning myself if I can." 

" Very good, your honour," says Troke. 

Kirkland was put into a separate cell that night ; and Troke, 

18 



274 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

by way of assuring him a good night's rest, told hjrrj^that he 
was to have " fifty " in the morning. " And Dawes '11 lay it on," 
he added. " He's one of the smartest men I've got, and he 
won't spare yer, yer may take your oath of that." 



CHAPTER XIV. 

MR. NORTH'S INDISPOSITION. 



" "\ 70U will find this a terrible place, Mr. Meekin," said 
North to his supplanter, as they walked across to the 
Commandant's to dinner. " It has made me heart- 
sick." 

" I thought it was a little paradise," said Meekin. " Captain 
Frere says that the scenery is delightful." 

" So it is," returned North, looking askance ; " but the 
prisoners are not delightful." 

" Poor, abandoned wretches," says Meekin, " I suppose not. 
How sweet the moonlight sleeps upon that bank ! Eh ! " 

"Abandoned, indeed, by God and man— almost." 

"Mr. North, Providence never abandons the most unworthy 
of His servants. Never have I seen the righteous forsaken, 
nor his seed begging their bread. In the valley of the shadow 
of death He is with us. His staff, you know, Mr. North. 
Really, the Commandant's house is charmingly situated ! " 

Mr. North sighed again. "You have not been long in the 
colony, Mr. Meekin. I doubt — forgive me for expressing myself 
so freely — if you quite know our convict system." 

" An admirable one ! A mdst admirable one ! " said Meekin. 
11 There were a few matters I noticed in Hobart Town that did 
not quite please me — the frequent use of profane language for 
instance — but on the whole I was delighted with the scheme. 
It is so complete." 

North pursed up his lips. "Yes, it is very complete," he 
said ; " almost too complete. But I am always in a minority 
when I discuss the question, so we will drop it, if you please." 

" If you please," said Meekin, gravely. He had heard from 
the Bishop that Mr. North was an ill-conditioned sort of person, 
who smoked clay pipes, had been detected in drinking beer out 



MR. NORTH'S INDISPOSITION. 27$ 

of a pewter pot, and had been heard to state that white neck- 
cloths were of no consequence. 

The dinner went off successfully. Burgess — desirous, per- 
haps, of favourably impressing the chaplain whom the Bishop 
delighted to honour — shut off his blasphemy for a while, and 
was urbane enough. " You'll find us rough, Mr. Meekin," he 
said, " but you'll find us 'all there ' when we're wanted. This 
is a little kingdom in itself." 

"Like BeYanger's ? " asked Meekin, with a smile. Captain 
Burgess had never heard of BeYanger, but he smiled as if he 
had learnt his words by heart. 

" Or like Sancho Panza's island," said North. " You re- 
member how justice was administered there ? " 

" Not at this moment, sir," said Burgess, with dignity. He 
had been often oppressed by the notion that the Reverend 
Mr. North " chaffed " him. " Pray, help yourself to wine." 

" Thank you, none," said North, filling a tumbler with water. 
" I have a headache." 

His manner of speech and action was so awkward that a 
silence fell upon the party, caused by each one wondering why 
Mr. North should grow confused, and drum his fingers on the 
table, and stare everywhere but at the decanter. Meekin — 
ever softly at his ease — was the first to speak. " Have you 
many visitors, Captain Burgess ? " 

" Very few. Sometimes a party comes over with a recom- 
mendation from the Governor, and I show them over the place ; 
but, as a rule, we see no one but ourselves." 

" I asked," said Meekin, " because some friends of mine 
were thinking of coming." 

" And who may they be ? " 

" Do you know Captain Frere ? " 

" Frere ! I should say so ! " returned Burgess, with a 
laugh, modelled upon Maurice Frere's own. " I was quartered 
with him at Sarah Island. So he's a friend of yours, ch ? " 

" I had the pleasure of meeting him in society. He is just 
married, you know." 

" Is he ? " said Burgess. " The devil he is ! I heard some- 
thing about it, too." 

" Miss Vickers, a charming young person. They are going 
to Sydney, where Captain Frere has some interest, and Frere 
thinks of taking Port Arthur on his way down. 



276 ITIS NATURAL LIFE. 

" A strange fancy for a honyemoon trip," said North. 

" Captain Frere takes a deep interest in all relating to eCnvTct 
discipline," went on Meekin, unheeding the interruption, " and 
is anxious that Mrs. Frere should see this place." 

" Yes, one oughtn't to leave the colony without seeing it," 
sg.ys Burgess ; "it's worth seeing." 

" So Captain Frere thinks. A romantic story, Captain 
Burgess. He saved her life, you know." 

" Ah ! that was a queer thing, that mutiny," said Burgess. 
" We've got the fellows here, you know ." 

" I saw them tried at Hobart Town," said Meekin. " In fact, 
the ringleader, John Rex, gave me his confession, and I sent 
it to the Bishop." 

" A great rascal," put in North. " A dangerous, scheming, 
cold-blooded villain." 

" Well now ! " said Meekin, with asperity, " I don't agree 
with you. Everybody seems to be against that poor fellow — 
Captain Frere tried to make me think his letters contained a 
hidden meaning, but I don't believe they did. He seems to me 
to be truly penitent for his offences— a misguided, but not a 
hypocritical man, if my knowledge of human nature goes for 
anything." 

" I hope he is," said North. " I wouldn't trust him." 

" Oh ! there's no fear of him," said Burgess, cheerily ; " if 
he grows uproarious, we'll soon give him a touch of the cat." 

" I suppose severity is necessary," returned Meekin; "though 
to my ears a flogging sounds a little distasteful. It is a brutal 
punishment." 

" It's a punishment for brutes," said Burgess, and laughed, 
pleased with the nearest approach to an epigram he ever made 
in his life. 

Here attention was called by the strange behaviour of Mr. 
North. He had risen, and, without apology, flung wide the 
window, as though he gasped for air. " Hullo, North ! what's 
the matter ? " 

" Nothing," said North, recovering himself with an effort. 
"A spasm. I have these attacks at times." 
" Have some brandy," said Burgess. 

" No, no, it will pass. No, I say. Well, if you insist." 
And seizing the tumbler offered to him, he half-filled it with 
raw spirit, and swallowed the fiery draught at a gulp. 



MR. NORTirS INDISPOSITION. 277 

The Reverend Meekin eyed his clerical brother with horror. 
The Reverend Meekin was not accustomed to clergymen who 
wore black neckties, smoked clay pipes, chewed tobacco, and 
drank neat brandy out of tumblers. 

" Ha ! " said North, looking wildly round upon them. 
"That's better." 

" Let us go on to the verandah," said Burgess. " It's cooler 
than in the house." 

So they went on to the verandah, and looked down upon the 
lights of the prison, and listened to the sea lapping the shore. 
The Reverend Mr. North, in this cool atmosphere, seemed to 
recover himself, and conversation progressed with some spright- 
liness. 

By-and-by, a short figure, smoking a cheroot, came up out 
of the dark, and proved to be Dr. Macklewain, who had been 
prevented from attending the dinner by reason of an accident to 
a constable at Norfolk Bay, which had claimed his professional 
attention. 

"Well, how's Forrest?" cried Burgess. "Mr. Meekin — 
Dr. Macklewain." 

" Dead," said Dr. Macklewain. " Delighted to see you, Mr. 
Meekin." 

" Confound it — another of my best men," grumbled Burgess. 
" Macklewain, have a glass of wine." But Macklewain was 
tired, and wanted to get home. 

" I must also be thinking of repose," said Meekin ; " the 
journey — though most enjoyable — has fatigued me." 

" Come on, then," said North. " Our roads lie together, 
doctor." 

" You won't have a nip of brandy before you start ? " asked 
Burgess. " No ? Then I shall send round for you in the 
morning, Mr. Meekin. Good night. Macklewain, I want to 
speak with you a moment." 

Before the two clergymen had got half-way down the steep 
path that led from the Commandant's house to the flat on 
which the cottages of the doctor and chaplain were built, 
Macklewain rejoined them. " Another flogging to-mor- 
row," said he, grumblingly. " Up at daylight, I suppose, 
again." 

"Whom is he going to flog now ?" 

" That young butler-fellow of his." 



278 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

" What, Kirkland ? " cried North. " You don't mean to say 
he's going to flog Kirkland ? " 

" Insubordination," says Macklewain. " Fifty lashes." 

" Oh, this must be stopped," cries North, in great alarm. 
"He can't stand it. I tell you he'll die, Macklewain." 

" Perhaps you'll have the goodness to allow me to be the 
best judge of that," returned Macklewain, drawing up his little 
body to its least insignificant stature. 

" My dear sir," replied North, alive to the importance of 
conciliating the surgeon, "you haven't seen him lately. He 
tried to drown himself this morning." 

Mr. Meekin expressed some alarm ; but Dr. Macklewain 
re-assured him. " That sort of nonsense must be stopped," 
said he. "A nice example to set. I wonder Burgess didn't 
give him a hundred." 

"He was put into the long dormitory," said North; "you 
know what sort of a place that is. I declare to Heaven his 
agony and shame terrified me." 

"Well, he'll be put into the hospital for a week or so 
to-morrow," said Macklewain, " and that'll give him a 
spell." 

" If Burgess flogs him I'll report it to the Governor," cries 
North, in great heat. " The condition of those dormitories is 
infamous." 

" If the boy has anything to complain of, why don't he com- 
plain ? We can't do anything without evidence." 

" Complain ! Would his life be safe if he did ? Besides, he's 
not the sort of creature to complain. He'd rather kill himself 
than say anything about the matter." 

"That's all nonsense," says Macklewain. "We can't flog 
a whole dormitory on suspicion. / can't help it. The boy's 
made his bed, and he must lie on it." 

" I'll go back and see Burgess," said North. " Mr. Meekin, 
here's the gate, and your room is on the right hand. I'll be 
back shortly." 

" Pray don't hurry," said Meekin politely. "You are on an 
errand of mercy, you know. Everything must give way to that. 
I shall find my portmanteau in my room, you said." 

" Yes, yes. Call the servant if you want anything. He sleeps 
at the back," and North hurried off. 

" An impulsive gentleman," said Meekin to Macklewain, as 



MR. NORTH'S INDISPOSITION. 279 

the sound of Mr. North's footsteps died away in the distance. 
Macklewain shook his head seriously. 

" There is something wrong about him, but I can't make out 
what it is. He has the strangest fits at times. Unless it's a 
cancer in the stomach, I don't know what it can be." 

" Cancer in the stomach ! dear me, how dreadful ! " says 
Meekin. "Ah! Doctor, we all have our crosses, have we 
not ? How delightful the grass smells ? This seems a very 
pleasant place, and I think I shall enjoy myself very much. 
Good-night." 

" Good-night, sir. I hope you will be comfortable." 

"And let us hope poor Mr. North will succeed in his labour 
of love," said Meekin, shutting the little gate, " and save the 
unfortunate Kirkland. Good-night, once more." 

Captain Burgess was shutting his verandah-window when 
North hurried up. " Captain Burgess, Macklewain tells me 
you are going to flog young Kirkland." 

" Well, sir, what of that ? " said Burgess. 

" I have come to beg you not to do so, sir. The lad has 
been cruelly punished already. He attempted suicide to-day — 
unhappy creature." 

" Well, that's just what I'm flogging him for. I'll teach my 
prisoners to attempt suicide ! " 

" But he can't stand it, sir. He's too Weak." 

" That's Macklewain's business." 

" Captain Burgess," protested North, " I assure you that he 
does not deserve punishment. I have seen him, and his con- 
dition of mind is pitiable." 

" Look here, Mr. North, I don't interfere with what you do to 
the prisoners' souls, don't you interfere with what I do to their 
bodies." 

" Captain Burgess, you have no right to mock at my office." 

"Then don't you interfere with me, sir." 

" Do you persist in having this boy flogged ? " 

" I've given my orders, sir." 

"Then, Captain Burgess," cried North, his pale face flushing, 
" I tell you the boy's blood will be on your head. I am a 
minister of God, sir, and I forbid you to commit this crime." 

"Damn your impertinence, sir !" burst out Burgess. "You're 
a dismissed officer of the Government, sir. You've no authority 



2So HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

here in any way ; and, by God, sir, if you interfere with my 
discipline, sir, I'll have you put in irons until you're shipped 
out of the island." 

This, of course, was mere bravado on the part of the Com- 
mandant. North knew well that he would never dare to attempt 
any such act of violence, but the insult stung him like the cut 
of a whip. He made a stride towards the Commandant, as 
though to seize him by the throat, but, checking himself in 
time, stood still, with clenched hands, flashing eyes, and beard 
that bristled. 

The two men looked at each other, and presently Burgess's 
eyes fell before those of the chaplain. 

" Miserable blasphemer," says North, " I tell you that you 
shall not flog the boy." 

Burgess, white with rage, rang the bell that summoned his 
convict servant. 

" Show Mr. North out," he said, " and go down to the 
barracks, and tell Troke that Kirkland is to have a hundred 
lashes to-morrow. I'll show you who's master here, my good 
sir." 

" I'll report this to the Government," said North, aghast. 
"This is murderous." 

" The Government may go to , and you, too ! " roared 

Burgess. " Get out!" 

And God's vicegerent at Port Arthur slammed the door. 

North returned home in great agitation. "They shall not 
flog that boy," he said. " I'll shield him with my own body if 
necessary. I'll report this to the Government. I'll see Sir 
John Franklin myself. I'll have the light of day let into this 
den of horrors." He reached his cottage, and lighted the lamp 
in the little sitting-room. All was silent, save that from the 
adjoining chamber came the sound of Meekin's gentlemanly 
snore. North took down a book from the shelf and tried to 
read, but the letters ran together. " I wish I hadn't taken that 
brandy," he said. " Fool that I am." 

Then he began to walk up and down, to fling himself on the 
sofa, to read, to pray. " O God, give me strength ! Aid me ! 
Help me ! I struggle, but I am weak ! O Lord, look down 
upon me!" 

To see him rolling on the sofa in agony, to see his white face, 
his parched lips, and his contracted brow, to hear his moans 



MR. NORTH'S INDISPOSITION. 2S1 

and muttered prayers, one would have thought him suffering 
from the pangs of some terrible disease. He opened the book 
again, and forced himself to read, but his eyes wandered to the 
cupboard. There lurked something that fascinated him. He 
got up at length, went into the kitchen, and found a packet of 
red pepper. He mixed a tcaspoonful of this in a pannikin ct 
water and drank it. It relieved him for a while. 

I must keep my wits for to-morrow. The life of that 
lad depends upon it. Meekin, too, will suspect. I will lie 
down." 

He went into his bedroom and flung himself on the bed, but 
only to toss from side to side. In vain he repeated texts ot 
Scripture and scraps of verse; in vain counted imaginary sheep, 
or listened to imaginary clock-tickings. Sleep would not come 
to him. It was as though he had reached the crisis of a disease 
which had been for days gathering force. " I must have a tea- 
spoonful," he said, " to allay the craving." 

Twice he paused on his way to the sitting-room, and twice 
was he driven on by a power stronger than his will. He 
reached it at length, and opening the cupboard, pulled out 
what he sought. A bottle of brandy. 

With this in his hand, all moderation vanished. He raised 
it to his lips and eagerly drank. Then, ashamed of what he 
had done, he thrust the bottle back, and made for his room. 
Still he could not sleep. The taste of the liquor maddened 
him for more. He saw in the darkness the brandy bottle, — 
vulgar and terrible apparition ! He saw its amber fluid sparkle. 
He heard it gurgle as he poured it out. He smelt the nutty 
aroma of the spirit. He pictured it standing in the corner of 
the cupboard, and imagined himself seizing it and quenching 
the fire that burned within him. He wept, he prayed, he 
fought with his desire as with a madness. He told himselt 
that another's life depended on his exertions, that to give way 
to his fatal passion was unworthy of an educated man and a 
reasoning being, that it was degrading, disgusting, and bestial. 
That, at all times debasing, at this particular time it was 
infamous ; that a vice, unworthy of any man, was doubly sinful 
in a man of education and a minister of God. In vain. In 
the midst of his arguments he found himself at the cupboard, 
with the bottle at his lips, in an attitude that was at once 
ludicrous and horrible. 



HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



He had no cancer. His disease was a more terrible one. 
The Reverend James North — gentleman, scholar, and Christian 
priest — was what the world calls " a confirmed drunkard," 



CHAPTER XV. 

ONE HUNDRED LASHES. 



THE morning sun, bright and fierce, looked down upon a 
curious sight. In a stone-yard was a little group of 
persons — Troke, Burgess, Macklewain, Kirkland, and 
Rufus Dawes. 

Three wooden staves, seven feet high, were fastened together 
in the form of a triangle. The structure looked not unlike that 
made by gipsies to boil their kettles. To this structure Kirk- 
land was bound. His feet were fastened with thongs to the 
base of the triangle ; his wrists, bound above his head, at the 
apex. His body was then extended to its fullest length, and his 
white back shone in the sunlight. During his tying up he had 
said nothing — only when Troke roughly pulled off his shirt he 
shivered. 

" Now, prisoner," said Troke to Dawes, "do your duty." 

Rufus Dawes looked from the three stern faces to Kirkland's 
white back, and his face grew purple. In all his experience he 
had never been asked to flog before. He had been flogged 
often enough. 

" You don't want me to flog him, sir ? " he said to the 
Commandant. 

" Pick up the cat, sir ! " said Burgess, astonished ; " what is 
the meaning of this ? " 

Rufus Dawes picked up the heavy cat, and drew its knotted 
lashes between his fingers. 

" Go on, Dawes, whispered Kirkland, without turning his 
head. " You are no more than another man." 

" What does he say ? " asked Burgess. 

" Telling him to cut light, sir," said Troke, eagerly lying ; 
"they all do it." 

" Cut light, eh ! We'll see about that. Get on, my man, and 



ONE HUNDRED LASHES. 283 

look sharp, or I'll tie you up and give you fifty for yourself, as 
sure as God made little apples." 

" Go on, Dawes," whispered Kirkland again, " I don't mind." 

Rufus Dawes lifted the cat, swung it round his head, and 
brought its knotted cords down upon the white back. 

" Wonn ! " cried Troke. 

The white back was instantly striped with six crimson bars. 
Kirkland stifled a cry. It seemed to him that he had been cut 
in half. 

" Now, then, you scoundrel ! " roared Burgess ; " separate 
your cats ! What do you mean by flogging a man that 
fashion ?" 

Rufus Dawes drew his crooked fingers through the entangled 
cords, and struck again. This time the blow was more effective, 
and the blood beaded on the skin. 

The boy did not cry ; but Macklewain saw his hands clutch 
the staves tightly, and the muscles of his naked arms quiver. 

" Tew ! " 

" That's better," said Burgess. 

The third blow sounded as though it had been struck upon a 
piece of raw beef, and the crimson turned purple. 

" My God ! " said Kirkland, faintly, and bit his lips. 

The flogging proceeded in silence for ten strokes, and then 
Kirkland gave a screech like a wounded horse. 

" Oh ! . . . Captain Burgess ! . . . Dawes ! . . . Mr. Troke! 
... Oh, my God ! . . . Oh ! oh ! . . . Mercy ! . . . Oh, 
Doctor ! . . . Mr. North ! . . . Oh ! Oh ! Oh ! " 

" Ten ! " cried Troke, impassibly counting to the end of the 
first twenty. 

The lad's back, swollen into a hump, now presented the 
appearance of a ripe peach which a wilful child has scored with 
a pin. Dawes, turning away from his bloody handiwork, drew 
the cats through his fingers twice. They were beginning to 
get clogged a little. 

" Go on," said Burgess, with a nod ; and Troke cried 
" Wonn ! " again. 

Roused by the morning sun streaming in upon him, Mr. 
North opened his bloodshot eyes, rubbed his forehead with 
hands that trembled, and suddenly awakening to a conscious- 
ness of his promised errand, rolled off the bed and rose to his 



284 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

feet. He saw the empty brandy-bottle on his wooden dressing- 
table, and remembered what had passed. With shaking hands 
he dashed water over his aching head, and smoothed his 
garments. The debauch of the previous night had left the 
usual effects behind it. His brain seemed on fire, his hands 
were hot and dry, his tongue clove to the roof of his mouth. He 
shuddered as he viewed his pale face and red eyes in the little 
looking-glass, and hastily tried the door. He had retained 
sufficient sense in his madness to lock it, and his condition had 
been unobserved. Stealing into the sitting-room, he saw that 
the clock pointed to half-past six. The flogging was to have 
taken place at half-past five. Unless accident had favoured 
him he was already too late. Fevered with remorse and 
anxiety, he hurried past the room where Meekin yet slumbered, 
and made his way to the prison. As he entered the yard, 
Troke called " Ten ! " Kirkland had just got his fiftieth lash. 

" Stop ! " cried North. " Captain Burgess, I call upon you 
to stop." 

"You're rather late, Mr. North," retorted Burgess. "The 
punishment is nearly over." 

" Wonn ! " cried Troke again ; and North stood by, biting 
his nails and grinding his teeth, during six more lashes. 

Kirkland had ceased to yell now, and merely moaned. His 
back was like a 'bloody sponge, while, in the interval between 
the lashes, the swollen flesh twitched like that of a new-killed 
bullock. Suddenly, Macklewain saw his head droop on his 
shoulder. "Throw him off! Throw him off!" he cried, and 
Troke hurried to loosen the thongs. 

" Fling some water over him ! " said Burgess, " he's sham- 
ming." 

A bucket of water made Kirkland open his eyes. u I thought 
so," said Burgess. " Tie him up again." 

" No. Not if you are Christians ! " cried North. 

He met with an ally where he least expected one. Rufus 
Dawes flung down the dripping cat. " I'll flog no more," said 
he. 

" What ? " roared Burgess, furious at this gross insolence. 

" I'll flog no more. Get some one else to do your bloody 
work for you. I won't." 

" Tie him up ! " cried Burgess, foaming. " Tie him up. 
Here, constable, fetch a man here with a fresh cat. I'll give 



OA'E HUNDRED LASHES. 285 

you that beggar's fifty, and fifty more on the top of 'em ; and he 
shall look on while his back cools." 

Rufus Dawes, with a glance at North, pulled off his shirt 
without a word, and stretched himself at the triangles. His 
back was not white and smooth, like Kirkland's had been, but 
hard and seamed. He had been flogged before. Troke ap- 
peared with Gabbett — grinning. Gabbett liked flogging. It 
was his boast that he could flog a man to death on a place no 
bigger than the palm of his hand. He could use his left hand 
equally with his right, and if he got hold of a " favourite," would 
" cross the cuts." 

Rufus Dawes planted his feet firmly on the ground, took 
fierce grasp of the staves, and drew in his breath. 

Macklewain spread the garments of the two men upon the 
ground, and, placing Kirkland upon them, turned to watch this 
new phase in the morning's amusement. He grumbled a little 
below his breath, for he wanted his breakfast, and when the 
Commandant once began to flog, there was no telling where he 
would stop. Rufus Dawes took five-and twenty lashes without 
a murmur, and then Gabbett " crossed the cuts." This went on 
up to fifty lashes, and North felt himself stricken with admira- 
tion at the courage of the man. "If it had not been for that 
cursed brandy," thought he, with bitterness of self-reproach, " I 
might have saved all this." At the hundredth lash, the giant 
paused, expecting the order to throw off, but Burgess was deter- 
mined to " break the man's spirit." 

" I'll make you speak, you dog, if I cut your heart out ! " he 
cried. " Go on, prisoner." 

For twenty lashes more Dawes was mute, and then the 
agony forced from his labouring breast a hideous cry. But it 
was not a cry for mercy, as that of Kirkland's had been. Having 
found his tongue, the wretched man gave vent to his boiling 
passion in a torrent of curses. He shrieked imprecations upon 
Burgess, Troke, and North. He cursed all soldiers for tyrants, 
all parsons for hypocrites. He blasphemed his God and his 
Saviour. With a frightful outpouring of obscenity and blas- 
phemy, he called on the earth to gape and swallow his persecu- 
tors, for heaven to open and rain fire upon them, for hell to 
yawn and engulf them quick. It was as though each blow of 
the cat forced out of him a fresh burst of beast-like rage. He 
seemed to have abandoned his humanity. He foamed, he 



286 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



raved, he tugged at his bonds until the strong staves shook 
again ; he writhed himself round upon the triangles and spit 
impotently at Burgess, who jeered at his torments. North, 
with his hands to his ears, crouched against the corner of the 
wall, palsied with horror. It seemed to him that the passions of 
hell raged around him. He would fain have fled, but a horrible 
fascination held him back. 

In the midst of this— when the cat was hissing its loudest- 
Burgess laughing his hardest, and the wretch on the triangles 
filling the air with his cries, North saw Kirkland look at him 
with what he thought a smile. Was it a smile ? He leapt for- 
ward, and uttered a cry of dismay so loud that all turned. 

" Hullo ! " says Troke, running to the heap of clothes, " the 
young 'un's slipped his wind ! " 
Kirkland was dead. 

"Throw him off ! " says Burgess, aghast at the unfortunate 
accident ; and Gabbett reluctantly untied the thongs that bound 
Rufus Dawes. Two constables were alongside him in an in- 
stant, for sometimes newly tortured men grew desperate. This 
one, however, was silent with the last lash, only in taking his 
shirt from under the body of the boy, he muttered " Dead ! " 
and in his tone there seemed to be a touch of envy. Then 
flinging his shirt over his bleeding shoulders, he walked out- 
defiant to the last. 

"Game, ain't he?" said one constable to the other, as they 
pushed him, not ungently, into an empty cell, there to wait for 
the hospital guard. The body of Kirkland was taken away in 
silence, and Burgess turned rather pale when he saw North's 
threatening face. 

"It isn't my fault, Mr. North," he said. " I didn't know that 
the lad was chicken-hearted." But North turned away in dis- 
gust, and Macklewain and Burgess pursued their homeward 
route together. 

" Strange that he should drop like that," said the Commandant. 

" Yes, unless he had any internal disease," said the surgeon. 

" Disease of the heart, for instance," said Burgess. 

" I'll post-mortem him and see." 

"Come in and have a nip, Macklewain. I feel quite 
qualmish," said Burgess. And the two went into the house 
amid respectful salutes from either side. Mr. North, in agony 
of mind at what he considered the consequence of his neglect, 



ONE HUNDRED LASHES. 287 



slowly, and with head bowed down, as one bent on a painful 
errand, went to see the prisoner who had survived. He found 
him kneeling on the ground, prostrated. 

" Rufus Dawes." 

At the low tone Rufus Dawes looked up, and seeing who it 
was, waved him off. 

" Don't speak to me," he said, with an imprecation that made 
North's flesh creep. " I've told you what I think of you— a 
hypocrite, who stands by while a man is cut to pieces, and then 
comes and whines religion to him." 

North stood in the centre of the cell, with his arms hanging 
down, and his head bent. 

" You are right," he said, in a low tone. " I must seem to 
you a hypocrite. / a servant of Christ? A besotted beast 
rather ! I am not come to whine religion to you. I am come to 
— to ask your pardon. I might have saved you from punishment, 
— saved that poor boy from death. I wanted to save him, God 
knows ! But I have a vice ; I am a drunkard, I yielded to my 
temptation, and — I was too late. I come to you as one sinful 
man to another, to ask you to forgive me." And North sud- 
denly flung himself down beside the convict, and catching his 
blood-bespotted hands in his own, cried, " Forgive me, brother !" 

Rufus Dawes, too much astonished to speak, bent his black 
eyes upon the man who crouched at his feet, and a ray of divine 
pity penetrated his gloomy soul. He seemed to catch a glimpse 
of misery more profound than his own, and his stubborn heart 
felt human sympathy with this erring brother. " Then in this 
hell there is yet a man," said he ; and a hand-grasp passed 
between these two unhappy beings. North arose, and, with 
averted face, passed quickly from the cell. Rufus Dawes looked 
at the hand which his strange visitor had taken, and something 
glittered there. It was a tear. He broke down at the sight of 
it, and when the guard came to fetch the tameless convict, they 
found him on his knees in a corner, sobbing like a child. 



2S8 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



CHAPTER XVI. 

KICKING AGAINST THE PRICKS. 

THE morning after this, the Rev. Mr. North departed in 
the schooner for Hobart Town. Between the officious 
chaplain and the Commandant, the events of the pre- 
vious day had fixed a great gulf. Burgess knew that North 
meant to report the death of Kirkland, and guessed that he 
would not be backward in relating the story to such persons in 
Hobart Town as would most readily repeat it. " Blank awk- 
ward the fellow's dying," he confessed to himself. " If he hadn't 
died, nobody would have bothered about him." A sinister 
truth. North, on the other hand, comforted himself with the 
belief that the fact of the convict's death under the lash would 
cause indignation and subsequent inquiry. ''The truth must 
come out if they only ask" thought he. Self-deceiving North ! 
Four years a Government chaplain, and not yet attained to a 
knowledge of a Government's method of " asking " about such 
matters ! Kirkland's mangled flesh would have fed the worms 
before the ink on the last " minute " from deliberating Authority 
was dry. 

Burgess, however, touched with selfish regrets, determined to 
baulk the parson at the outset. He would send down an official 
" return " of the unfortunate occurrence by the same vessel that 
carried his enemy, and thus get the ear of the Office. Meekin, 
walking on the evening of the flogging past the wooden shed 
where the body lay, saw Troke bearing buckets filled with dark 
coloured water, and heard a great splashing and sluicing going 
on inside the hut. " What is the matter ? " he asked. 

" Doctor's bin post morticing the prisoner what was flogged 
this morning, sir," said Troke, "and we're cleanin' up." 

Meekm sickened, and walked on. He had heard that un- 
happy Kirkland possessed unknown disease of the heart, and 
had unhappily died before receiving his allotted punishment. 
His duty was to comfort Kirkland's soul, he had nothing to do 
with Kirkland's slovenly unhandsome body, and so he went for 
a walk on the pier, that the breeze might blow his momentary 
sickness away from him. On the pier he saw North talking to 
Father Flaherty, the Roman Catholic chaplain. Meekin had 



KICKING AGAINST THE PRICKS. 2S9 

been taught to look upon a priest as a shepherd might look 
upon a wolf, and passed with a distant bow. The pair were 
apparently talking of the occurrence of the morning, for he 
heard Father Flaherty say, with a shrug of his round shoulders, 
"He woas not one of moi people, Mr. North, and the Gover- 
mint would not suffer me to interfere with mathers relating to 
Prhotestint prisoners." " The wretched creature was a Pro- 
testant," thought Meekin. " At least then his immortal soul 
was not endangered by belief in the damnable heresies of the 
Church of Rome." So he passed on, giving good-humoured 
Denis Flaherty, the son of the butter-merchant of Kildrum, a 
wide berth and sea-room, lest he should pounce down upon 
him unawares, and with Jesuitical argument and silken softness 
of speech, convert him by force to his own state of error, — as 
was the well-known custom of those intellectual gladiators, the 
Priests of the Catholic Faith. North, on his side, left Flaherty 
with regret. He had spent many a pleasant hour with him, and 
knew him for a narrow-minded, conscientious, yet laughter- 
loving creature, whose God was neither his belly nor his 
breviary, but sometimes in one place and sometimes in the 
other, according to the hour of the day, and the fasts appointed 
for due mortification of the flesh. "A man who would do 
Christian work in a jog-trot parish, or where men lived too 
easily to sin harshly, but utterly unfit to cope with Satan, as the 
British Government had transported him," was North's sadly 
satirical reflection upon Father Flaherty, as Port Arthur faded 
into indistinct beauty behind the swift-sailing schooner. " God 
help those poor villains, for neither parson nor priest can." 

He was right. North, the drunkard and self-tormented, had 
a power for good, of which Meekin and the other knew nothing. 
Not merely were the men incompetent and self-indulgent, but 
they understood nothing of that frightful capacity for agony 
which is deep in the soul of every evil-doer. They might strike 
the rock as they chose with sharpest-pointed machine-made 
pick of warranted Gospel manufacture, stamped with the 
approval of eminent divines of all ages, but the water of re- 
pentance and remorse would not gush for them. They possessed 
not the frail rod which alone was powerful to charm. They had 
no sympathy, no knowledge, no experience. He who would 
touch the hearts of men must have had his own heart seared. 

19 



290 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



The missionaries of mankind have ever been great singers 
before they earned the divine right to heal and bless. Their 
weakness was made their strength, and out of their own agony 
of repentance came the knowledge which made them masters 
and saviours of their kind. It was the agony of the Garden 
and the Cross that gave to the world's Preacher His kingdom 
in the hearts of men. The crown of divinity is a crown of 
thorns. 

North, on his arrival, went straight to the house of Major 
Vickers. " I have a complaint to make, sir," he said. " I wish 
to lodge it formally with you. A prisoner has been flogged to 
death at Port Arthur. I saw it done." 

Vickers bent his brow. "A serious accusation, Mr. North. 
I must, of course, receive it with respect, coming from you, but 
I trust that you have fully considered the circumstances of the 
case. I always understood Captain Burgess was a most humane 
man." 

North shook his head. He would not accuse Burgess. He 
would let events speak for themselves. " I only ask for an 
inquiry," said he. 

" Yes, my dear sir, I know. Very proper indeed on your 
part, if you think any injustice has been done ; but have you 
considered the expense, the delay, the immense trouble and 
dissatisfaction all this will give ? " 

"No trouble, no expense, no dissatisfaction, should stand in 
the way of humanity and justice," cried North. 

" Of course not. But will justice be done ? Are you sure 
you can prove your case ? Mind, I admit nothing against 
Captain Burgess, whom I have always considered a most worthy 
and zealous officer ; but, supposing your charge to be true, can 
you prove it ? " 

" Yes. If the witnesses speak the truth." 

" Who are they ? " 

" Myself, Dr. Macklewain, the constable, and two prisoners, 
one of whom was flogged himself. He will speak the truth, I 
believe. The other man I have not much faith in." 

" Very well ; then there is only a prisoner and Dr. Mackle- 
wain ; for if there has been foul play the convict-constable will 
not accuse the authorities. Moreover ; the doctor does not agree 
with you." 



KICKING AGAINST THE PRICKS. 291 



" No ! " cried North, amazed. 

" No. You see, then, my dear sir, how necessary it is not to 
be hasty in matters of this kind. I really think— pardon me 
for my plainness— that your goodness of heart has misled you. 
Captain Burgess sends a report of the case. He says the man 
was sentenced to a hundred lashes for gross insolence and dis- 
obedience of orders, that the doctor was present during the 
punishment, and that the man was thrown off by his directions 
after he had received fifty-six lashes. That, after a short 
interval, he was found to be dead, and that the doctor made a 
post-mortem examination of the body and found disease of the 
heart." 

North started. " A post-mortem? I never knew there had 
been one held." 

" Here is the medical certificate," said Vickers, holding it 
out, " accompanied by the copies of the evidence of the con- 
stable and a letter from the Commandant." 

Poor North took the papers and read them slowly. They 
were apparently straightforward enough. Aneurism of the 
ascending aorta was given as the cause of death ; and the 
doctor frankly admitted that had he known the deceased to be 
suffering from that complaint he would not have permitted him 
to receive more than twenty-five lashes. 

" I think Macklevvain is an honest man," said North, doubt- 
fully. " He would not dare to return a false certificate. Yet 
the circumstances of the case — the horrible condition of the 
prisoners — the frightful story of that boy " 

" I cannot enter into these questions, Mr. North. My posi- 
tion here is to administer the law to the best of my ability, not 
to question it." 

North bowed his head to the reproof. In some sort of justly 
unjust way, he felt that he deserved it. "I can say no more, 
sir. I am afraid I am helpless in this matter — as I have been 
in others. I' see that the evidence is against me; but it is 
my duty to carry my efforts as far as I can, and I will do so.' - 
Vickers bowed stiffly, and wished him good morning. Authority, 
however well-meaning in private life, has in its official capacity 
a natural dislike to those dissatisfied persons, who persist in 
pushing inquiries to extremities. 

North, going out with saddened spirits, met in the passage a 
beautiful young giil. It was Sylvia, coming to visit her father. 



292 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

He lifted his hat and looked after her. He guessed that she 
was the daughter of the man he had left — the wife of the 
Captain Frere concerning whom he had heard so much. North 
was a man whose morbidly excited brain was prone to strange 
fancies ; and it seemed to him that beneath the clear blue eyes 
that flashed upon him for a moment, lay a hint of future sad- 
ness, in which, in some strange way, he himself was to bear 
part. He stared after her figure until it disappeared ; and long 
after the dainty presence of the young bride — trimly-booted, 
tight-waisted, and neatly-gloved — had faded, with all its sunshine 
of gaiety and health, from out of his mental vision, he still saw 
those blue eyes and that cloud of golden hair. 




CAPTAIN AND M 



SYLVIA had become the wife of Maurice Frere. The 
wedding created excitement in the convict settlement, for 
Maurice Frere, though oppressed by the secret shame at 
open matrimony which affects men of his character, could not 
in decency — seeing how "good a thing for him" was this 
wealthy alliance — demand unceremonious nuptials. So, after 
the fashion of the town — there being no "Continent" or 
" Scotland " adjacent as a hiding place for bridal blushes — 
the alliance was entered into with due pomp of ball and supper; 
bride and bridegroom departing through the golden afternoon 
to the nearest of Major Vickers's stations. Thence it had 
been arranged they should return after a fortnight, and take 
ship for Sydney. 

Major Vickers, affectionate though he was to the man whom 
he believed to be the saviour of his child, had no notion of 
allowing him to live on Sylvia's fortune. He had settled his 
daughter's portion — ten thousand pounds — upon herself and 
children, and had informed Frere that he expected him to live 
upon an income of his own earning. After many consultations 
between the pair, it had been arranged that a civil appointment 
in Sydney would suit the bridegroom, who was to sell out of 
the service. This notion was Frere's own. He never cared 



CAPTAIN AMD MRS. FRERE. 293 

for military duty, and had, moreover, private debts to no in- 
considerable amount. By selling his commission he would 
be enabled at once to pay these debts, and render himself 
eligible for any well-paid post under the Colonial Government 
that the interest of his father-in-law, and his own reputation 
as a convict disciplinarian, might procure. 

Vickcrs would fain have kept his daughter with him, but he 
unselfishly acquiesced in the scheme, admitting that Frere's 
plea as to the comforts she would derive from the society to be 
found in Sydney was a valid one. 

" You can come over and see us when we get settled, Papa," 
said Sylvia, with all a young matron's pride of place, "and we 
can come and see you. Hobart Town is very pretty, but I 
want to see the World." 

"You should go to London, Poppet," said Maurice, "that's 
the place. Isn't it, sir ? " 

"Oh, London!" cries Sylvia, clapping her hands. "And 
Westminster Abbey, and the Tower, and St. James's Palace, 
and Hyde Park, and Fleet-street ! ' Sir,' said Dr. Johnson, 
'let us take a walk down Fleet-street.' Do you remember, in 
Mr. Croker's book, Maurice ? No, you don't, I know, because 
you only looked at the pictures, and then read Pierce Egan's 
account of the Topping Fight between Bob Gaynor and Ned 
Neal, or some such person." 

" Little girls should be seen and not heard," said Maurice, 
between a laugh and a blush. " You have no business to read 
my books." 

" Why not ?" she asked, with a gaiety which already seemed 
a little strained ; " husband and wife should have no secrets 
from each other, sir. Besides, I want you to read my books. 
I am going to read Shelley to you." 

" Don't, my dear," said Maurice simply. " I can't understand 
him." 

This little scene took place at the dinner-table of Frere's 
cottage, in New Town, to which Major Vickcrs had been 
invited, in order that future plans might be discussed. 

" I don't want to go to Port Arthur," said the bride, later in 
the evening. " Maurice, there can be no necessity to go there." 

" Well," said Maurice, " I want to have a look at the place. 
I ought to be familiar with all phases of convict discipline, you 
know," 



294 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

" There is likely to be a report ordered upon the death of a 
prisoner," said Vickers. " The chaplain, a fussy but well- 
meaning person, has been memorializing about it. You may 
as well do it as anybody else, Maurice." 

" Ay. And save the expenses of the trip," said Maurice. 

" But it is so melancholy," cried Sylvia. 

"The most delightful place in the island, my dear. I was 
there for a few days once, and I really was charmed." 

It was remarkable — so Vickers thought — how each of these 
newly-mated ones had caught something of the other's manner 
of speech. Sylvia was less choice in her mode of utterance, 
Frere more so. He caught himself wondering which of the 
two methods both would finally adopt. 

" But those dogs, and sharks, and things. Oh, Maurice, 
haven't we had enough of convicts ? " 

" Enough ! Why, I'm going to make my living out of 'em," 
said Maurice, with his most natural manner. 

Sylvia sighed. 

" Play something, darling," said her father ; and so the 
girl, sitting down to the piano, trilled and warbled in her pure 
young voice, until the Port Arthur question floated itself away 
upon waves of melody, and was heard of no more for that time. 
But upon pursuing the subject, Sylvia found her husband firm. 
He wanted to go, and he would go. Having once assured 
himself that it was advantageous to him to do a certain thing, 
the native obstinacy of the animal urged him to do it despite 
all opposition from others, and Sylvia, having had her first 
" cry " over the question of the visit, gave up the point. This 
was the first difference of their short married life, and she 
hastened to condone it. In the sunshine of Love and Marriage 
— for Maurice at first really loved her ; and love, curbing the 
worst part of him, brought to him, as it brings to all of us, that 
gentleness and abnegation of self which is the only token and 
assurance of a love aught but animal — Sylvia's fears and doubts 
melted away, as the mists melt in the beams of morning. A 
young girl, with passionate fancy, with honest and noble aspira- 
tions, but with the dark shadow of her early mental sickness 
brooding upon her childlike nature, Marriage made her a 
woman, by developing in her a woman's trust and pride in the 
man to whom she had voluntarily given herself. Yet by-and-by 
out of this very sentiment arose a new and strange source of 



CAPTAIN AND MRS. FRERE. 295 

anxiety. Having accepted her position as a wife, and put away 
from her all doubts as to her own capacity for loving the man 
to whom she had allied herself, she began to be haunted by 
a dread lest he might do something which would lessen the 
affection she bore him. On one or two occasions she had 
been forced to confess that her husband was more of an egotist 
than she cared to think. He demanded of her no great sacri- 
fices — had he done so she would have found, in making them, 
the pleasure that women of her nature always find in such 
self-mortification— but he now and then intruded on her that 
disregard for the feelings of others which was part of his 
character. He was fond of her — almost too passionately fond, 
for her staider liking — but he was unused to thwart his own 
will in anything, least of all in those seeming trifles, for the 
consideration of which true unselfishness bethinks itself. Did 
she want to read when he wanted to walk, he good-humouredly 
put aside her book, with an assumption that a walk with him 
must, of necessity, be the most pleasant thing in the world. 
Did she want to walk when he wanted to rest, he laughingly 
set up his laziness as an all-sufficient plea for her remaining 
within doors. He was at no pains to conceal his weariness 
when she read her favourite books to him. If he felt sleepy 
when she sang or played, he slept without apology. If she 
talked about a subject in which he took no interest, he turned 
the conversation remorselessly. He would not have wittingly 
offended her ; but it seemed to him natural to yawn when he 
was weary, to sleep when he was fatigued, and to talk only 
about those subjects which interested him. Had anybody told 
him that he was selfish, he would have been astonished. Thus 
it came about that Sylvia one day discovered that she ted two 
lives — -one in the body, and one in the spirit — and that with 
her spiritual existence her husband had no share. This 
discovery alarmed her, but then she smiled at it. "As if 
Maurice could be expected to take interest in all my silly 
fancies," said she ; and, despite a harassing thought that these 
same fancies were not foolish, but were the best and brightest 
portion of her, she succeeded in overcoming her uneasiness. 
" A man's thoughts are different from a woman's," she said ; 
" he has his business and his worldly cares, of which a woman 
knows nothing. I must comfort him, and not worry him with 
my follies." 



296 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

As for Maurice, he grew sometimes rather troubled in his 
mind. He could not understand his wife. Her nature was an 
enigma to him ; her mind was a puzzle which wou}d not be 
pieced together with the rectangular correctness of ordinary life. 
He had known her from a child, had loved her from a child, 
and had committed a mean and cruel crime to obtain her ; but 
having got her, he was no nearer to the mystery of her than 
before. She was all his own, he thought. Her golden hair was 
for his fingers, her lips were for his caress, her eyes looked love 
upon him alone. Yet there were times when her lips were cold 
to his kisses, and her eyes looked disdainfully upon his coarser 
passion. He would catch her musing when he spoke to her, 
much as she would catch him sleeping when she read to him, — 
but she awoke with a start and a blush at her forgetfulness, 
which he never did. He was not a man to brood over these 
things ; and, after some reflective pipes and ineffectual rubbings 
of his head, he "gaveTTTip." How was it possible, indeed, for 
him to solve the mental enigma when the woman herself was to 
him a physical riddle ? It was extraordinary that the child he 
had seen growing up by his side day by day should be a young 
woman with little secrets, now to be revealed to him for the 
first time. He found that she had a mole on her neck, and 
remembered that he had noticed it when she was a child. Then 
it was a thing of no moment, now it was a marvellous discovery. 
He was in daily wonderment at the treasure he had obtained. 
He marvelled at her feminine devices of dress and adornment. 
Her dainty garments seemed to him perfumed with the odour 
of sanctity. 

The fact was, that the patron of Sarah Purfoy had not met 
with many virtuous women, and had but just discovered what 
a dainty morsel modesty was . 



CHAPTER XVIII. 

IN THE HOSPITAL. 



THE hospital of Tort Arthur was not a cheerful place, but 
to the tortured and unnerved Rufus Dawes it seemed a 
paradise. There at least — despite the roughness and 
contempt with which his gaolers ministered to him — he felt th.^t 



IN THE HOSPITAL. 297 

he was considered. There at least he was free from the enforced 
companionship of the men whom he loathed, and to whose level 
he felt, with mental agony unspeakable, that he was daily 
sinking. Throughout his long term of degradation he had, as 
yet, aided by the memory of his sacrifice and his love, pre- 
served something of his self-respect, but he felt that he could 
not preserve it long. Little by little he had come to regard 
himself as one out of the pale of love and mercy, as one 
tormented of fortune, plunged into a deep into which the eye of 
Heaven did not penetrate. Since his capture in the garden at 
Hobart Town, he had given loose rein to his rage and his despair. 
" I am forgotten or despised ; I have no name in the world ; 
what matter if I become like one of these ? " It was under the 
influence of this feeling that he had picked up the cat at the 
command of Captain Burgess. As the unhappy Kirkland had 
said, "As well you as another ;" and truly, what was he that he 
should cherish sentiments of honour or humanity? But he had 
miscalculated his own capacity for evil. As he flogged, he 
blushed ; and when he flung down the cat and stripped his own 
back for punishment, he felt a fierce joy in the thought that his 
baseness would be atoned for in his own blood. Even when, 
unnerved and faint from the hideous ordeal, he flung himself 
upon his knees in the cell, he regretted only the impotent 
ravings that the torture had forced from him. He could have 
bitten out his tongue for his blasphemous utterings — not because 
they were blasphemous, but because their utterance, by reveal- 
ing his agony, gave their triumph to his tormentors. When North 
found him, he was in the very depth of this abasement, and he 
repulsed his comforter — not so much because he had seen him 
flogged, as because he had heard him cry. The self-reliance 
and force of will which had hitherto sustained him through his 
self-imposed trial had failed him — he felt — at the moment when 
he needed it most ; and the man who had with unflinclred front 
faced the gallows, the desert, and the sea, confessed his debased 
humanity beneath the physical torture of the lash. He had 
been flogged before, and had wept in secret at his degradation, 
but he now for the first time comprehended how terrible that 
degradation might be made, for he realized how the agony of 
the wretched body can force the soul to quit its last poor refuge 
of assumed indifference, and confess itself conquered. 

Not many months before, one of the companions of the 



298 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

chain, suffering under Burgess's tender mercies, had killed 
his mate when at work with him, and, carrying the body on his 
back to the nearest gang, had surrendered himself — going to his 
death thanking God he had at last found a way of escape from 
his miseries, which no one would envy him — save his comrades. 
The heart of Dawes had been filled with horror at a deed so 
bloody, and he had, with others, commented on the cowardice 
of the man that would thus shirk the responsibility of that state 
of life in which it had pleased man and the devil to place him. 
Now he understood how and why the crime had been com- 
mitted, and felt only pity. Lying awake with back that burned 
beneath its lotioned rags, when lights were low, in the breathful 
silence of the hospital, he registered in his heart a terrible oath 
that he would die ere he would again be made such hideous 
sport for his enemies. In this frame of mind, with such shreds 
of honour and wortlr~as had formerly clung to him blown away 
in the whirlwind of his passion, he bethought him of the 
strange man who had deigned to clasp his hand and call him 
"brother." He had wept no unmanly tears at this sudden flow 
of tenderness in one whom he had thought callous as the rest. 
He had been touched with wondrous sympathy at the confession 
of weakness made to him, in a moment when his own weakness 
had overcome him to his shame. Soothed by the brief rest that 
his fortnight of hospital seclusion had afforded him, he had 
begun, in a languid and speculative way, to turn his thoughts 
to religion. He had read of martyrs who had borne agonies 
unspeakable, upheld by their confidence in Heaven and God. 
In his old wild youth he had scoffed at prayers and priests ; in 
the hate to his kind that had grown upon him with his later 
years he had despised a creed that told men to love one 
another. " God is love, my brethren," said the chaplain on 
Sundays, and all the week the thongs of the overseer cracked, 
and the cat hissed and swung. Of what practical value was 
a piety that preached but did not practise ? It was admirable 
for the " religious instructor " to tell a prisoner that he must not 
give way to evil passions, but must bear his punishment with 
meekness. It was only right that he should advise him to " put 
his trust in God." But as a hardened prisoner, convicted of 
getting drunk in an unlicensed house of entertainment, had 
said, " God's terrible far from Port Arthur." 

Rufus Dawes had smiled at the spectacle of priests admonish- 



THE CONSOLA TIONS OF RELIGION. 299 

ing men, who knew what he knew and had seen what he had 
seen, for the trivialities of lying and stealing. He had believed 
all priests impostors or fools, all religion a mockery and a lie. 
But now, finding how utterly his own strength had failed him 
when tried by the rude test of physical pain, he began to think 
that this Religion which was talked of so largely was not a mere 
bundle of legends and formulae, but must have in it something 
vital and sustaining. Broken in spirit and weakened in body, 
with faith in his own will shaken, he longed for something to 
lean upon, and turned — as all men turn when in such case — to 
the Unknown. Had now there been at hand some Christian 
priest, some Christian-spirited man even, no matter of what 
faith, to pour into the ears of this poor wretch words of comfort 
and grace ; to rend away from him the garment of sullcnness and 
despair in which he had wrapped himself; to drag from him a 
confession of his unworthiness, his obstinacy, and his hasty 
judgment, and to cheer his fainting soul with promise of immor- 
tality and justice, he might have been saved from his after fate ; 
but there was no such man. He asked for the Chaplain. 
North was fighting the Convict Department, seeking vengeance 
for Kirkland, and (victim of " clerks with the cold spurt of the 
pen") was pushed hither and thither, referred here, snubbed 
there, bowed out in another place. Rufus Dawes, half ashamed 
of himself for his request, waited a long morning, and then saw, 
respectfully ushered into his cell as his soul's physician — ■ 
Meckin, 



CHAPTER XIX. 

THE CONSOLATIONS OF RELIGION. 

" \ T J ELL, my good man," said Meckin, soothingly, "so 
Y V y° u want °d to see me." 

" I asked for the chaplain," said Rufus Dawes, his 
anger with himself growing apace. 

" / am the chaplain," returned Meekin, with dignity, as who 
should say, — "none of your brandy-drinking, pea-jacketed 
Norths, but a Respectable chaplain who is the friend of a 
Bishop 1 " 



3°o HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

" I thought that Mr. North was " 

"Mr. North has left, sir," said Meekin, dryly, "but I will 
hear what you have to say. There is no occasion to go, con- 
stable ; wait outside the door." 

Rufus Dawes shifted himself on the wooden bench, and 
resting his scarcely-healed back against the wall, smiled 
bitterly. " Don't be afraid, sir ; I am not going to harm you," 
he said. " I only wanted to talk a little." 

" Do you read your Bible, Dawes ? " asked Meekin, by way 
of reply. " It would be better to read your |5ible than to talk, 
I think. You must humble yourself in prayer, Dawes." 

" I have read it," said Dawes, still lying back and watching 
him. 

" But is your mind softened by its teachings ? Do you realize 
the Infinite Mercy of God, who has compassion, Dawes, upon 
the greatest sinners ? " The convict made a move of im- 
patience. The old sickening, barren cant of piety was to be 
recommenced then. He came asking for bread, and they gave 
him the usual stone. 

" Do you believe that there is a God, Mr. Meekin ? " 

" Abandoned sinner ! Do you insult a clergyman by such a 
question ? " 

" Because I think sometimes that if there is, He must often 
be dissatisfied at the way things are done here," said Dawes, 
half to himself. 

" I can listen to no mutinous observations, prisoner," said 
Meekin. " Do not add blasphemy to your other crimes. I fear 
that all conversation with you, in your present frame of mind, 
would be worse than useless. I will mark a few passages in 
your Bible, that seem to me appropriate to your condition, and 
beg you to commit them to memory. Hailes, the door, if you 
please." 

So, with a bow, the " consoler " departed. 

Rufus Dawes felt his heart grow sick. North had gone, then. 
The only man who had seemed to have a heart in his bosom 
had gone. The only man who had dared to clasp his horny 
and blood-stained hand, and call him " brother," had gone. 
Turning his head, he saw through the window — wide open and 
unbarred, for Nature, at Port Arthur, had no need of bars — the 
lovely bay, smooth as glass, glittering in the afternoon sun, the 
long quay, spotted with groups of parti-coloured chain-gangs, 



THE CONSOLATIONS OF RELIGION. 301 

and heard, mingling with the soft murmur of the waves, and the 
gentle rustling of the trees, the never-ceasing clashing of irons, 
and the eternal click of hammers. Was he to be for ever buried 
in this whitened sepulchre, shut out from the face of Heaven 
and mankind ? 

The appearance of Hailes broke his reverie. " Here's a book 
for you," said he, with a grin. " Parson sent it." 

Rufus Dawes took the Bible, and, placing it on his knee, 
turned to the places indicated by slips of paper. There were 
some three or four of these slips of paper, embracing some 
twenty marked texts. 

" Parson says he'll come and hear you to-morrer, and you're 
to keep the book clean." 

"Keep the book clean!" and "hear him!" Did Meekin 
think that he was a charity school boy ? The utter incapacity of 
the chaplain to understand his wants was so sublime that it was 
nearly ridiculous enough to make him laugh. He turned his 
eyes downwards to the texts. Good Meekin, in the fulness of 
his stupidity, had selected the fiercest denunciations of bard 
and priest. The most notable of the Psalmist's curses upon his 
enemies, the most furious of Isaiah's ravings anent the forget- 
fulness of the national worship, the most terrible thunderings 
of apostle and evangelist against idolatry and unbelief, were 
grouped together and presented to Dawes to soothe him. All 
the material horrors of Meckin's faith — stripped, by force of 
dissociation from the context, of all poetic feeling and local 
colouring — were launched at the suffering sinner by Meckin's 
ignorant hand. The miserable man, seeking for consolation 
and peace, turned over the leaves of the Bible only to find him- 
self threatened with "the pains of Hell," "the never-dying 
worm," "the unquenchable fire," "the bubbling brimstone," the 
"bottomless pit," from out of which the "smoke of his torment" 
should ascend for ever and ever. Before his eyes was held no 
image of a tender Saviour (with hands soft to soothe, and eyes 
brimming with ineffable pity) dying crucified that he and other 
malefactors might have hope, by thinking on such marvellous 
humanity. The worthy Pharisee who was sent to him to teach 
him how mankind is to be redeemed with Love, preached only 
that harsh Law whose barbarous power died with the gentle 
Nazarene on Calvary. 

Repelled by this unlooked-for ending to his hopes, he let the 



302 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

book fall to the ground. " Is there, then, nothing but torment 
for me in this world or the next?" he groaned, shuddering. 
Presently his eyes sought his right hand, resting upon it as 
though it were not his own, or had some secret virtue which 
made it different from the other. " He would not have done 
this ? He would not have thrust upon me these savage judg- 
ments, these dreadful threats of Hell and Death. He called 
me ' Brother ! ' " And filled with a strange wild pity for himself, 
and yearning love towards the man who befriended him, he fell 
to nursing the hand on which North's tears had fallen, moaning 
and rocking himself to and fro. 

Meekin, coming in the morning, found his pupil more sullen 
than ever. 

" Have you learned these texts, my man?" said he, cheerfully, 
willing not to be angered with his uncouth and unpromising 
convert. 

Rufus Dawes pointed with his foot to the Bible, which still 
lay on the floor as he had left it the night before. " No ! " 

" No ! Why not ? " 

" I would learn no such words as those. I would rather 
forget them." 

" Forget them ! My good man, I " 

Rufus Dawes sprang up in sudden wrath, and pointing to his 
cell door with a gesture that — chained and degraded as he was 
—had something of dignity in it, cried, " What do you know 
about the feelings of such as I ? Take your book and yourself 
away. When I asked for a priest, I had no thought oi you. 
Begone! " 

Meekin, despite the halo of sanctity which he felt should 
surround him, found his gentility melt all of a sudden. Adven- 
titious distinctions had disappeared for the instant. The pair 
had become simply man and man, and the sleek priest-master 
quailing before the outraged manhood of the convict-penitent, 
picked up his Bible and backed out. 

" That man Dawes is very insolent," said the insulted chaplain 
to Burgess. " He was brutal to me to-day — quite brutal." 

" Was he ? " said Burgess. " Had too long a spell, I expect. 
I'll send him back to work to-morrow." 

"It would be well," said Meekin, "if he had some employment." 



'A NATURAL PENITENTIARY." 303 



CHAPTER XX. 
"A natural penitentiary." 

THE "employment" at Port Arthur consisted chiefly of 
agriculture, ship-building, and tanning. Dawes, who was 
in the chain-gang, was put to chain-gang labour ; that 
is to say, bringing down logs from the forest, or " lumbering " 
timber on the wharf. This work was not light. An ingenious 
calculator has discovered that the pressure of the log upon the 
shoulder was wont to average 125 lbs. Members of the chain- 
gang were dressed in yellow, and — by way of encouraging the 
others — had the word " Felon " stamped upon conspicuous parts 
of their raiment. 

This was the sort of life Rufus Dawes led. In the summer 
time he rose at half-past five in the morning, and worked until 
six in the evening, getting three-quarters of an hour for break- 
fast, and one hour for dinner. Once a week ho had a clean 
shirt, and once a fortnight clean socks. If he felt sick, he 
was permitted to " report his case to the medical officer." 
If he wanted to write a letter he could ask permission of the 
Commandant, and send the letter, open, through that Almighty 
Officer, who could stop it if he thought necessary. If he felt 
himself aggrieved by any order, he was " to obey it instantly, but 
might complain afterwards, if he thought fit, to the Commandant." 
In making any complaint against an officer or constable, it was 
strictly ordered that a prisoner " must be most respectful in his 
manner and language, when speaking of or to such officer or 
constable." He was held responsible only for the safety of his 
chains, and for the rest was at the mercy of his gaoler. These 
gaolers — owning right of search, entry into cells at all hours, and 
other droits of scigncury— were responsible only to the Com- 
mandant, who was responsible only to the Governor, that is to 
say, to nobody but God and his own conscience. The jurisdic- 
tion of the Commandant included the whole of Tasman's Penin- 
sula, with the islands and waters within three miles thereof ; and 
save the making of certain returns to head-quarters, his power 
W; unlimited. 

A word as to the position and appearance of this place of 
punishment. Tasman's Peninsula is, as we have said before, 



304 HIS NATURAL LIF£. 



in the form of an earring with a double drop. The lower drop 
is the larger, and is ornamented,~so to speak, with bays. At its 
southern extremity, is a deep indentation called Maingon Bay, 
bounded east and west by the organ-pipe rocks of Cape Raoul, 
and the giant form of Cape Pillar. From Maingon Bay an arm 
of the ocean cleaves the rocky walls in a northerly direction. 
On the Western coast of this sea-arm was the settlement ; 
in front of it was a little island where the dead were buried, 
called The Island of the Dead. Ere the in-coming convict 
passed the purple beau/ty of this convict Golgotha, his eyes 
were attracted by a point of grey rock covered with white 
buildings, and swarming with life. This was Point Puer, the 
place of confinement for boys from eight to twenty years of 
age. It was astonishing — many honest folks averred — how 
ungrateful were these juvenile convicts for the goods the Govern- 
ment had provided for them . From the extremity of Long 
Bay, as the extension of the sea-arm was named, a convict- 
made tramroad ran due north, through the nearly impenetrable 
thicket to Norfolk Bay. In the mouth of Norfolk Bay was 
Woody Island. This was used as a signal station, and an armed 
boat's crew was stationed there. To the north of Woody 
Island lay One-tree Point — the southernmost projection of the 
drop of the earring ; and the sea that ran between narrowed to 
the eastward, until it struck on the sandy bar of Eaglehawk- 
Neck. Eaglehawk-Neck was the link that connected the two 
drops of the earring. It was a strip of sand four hundred and 
fifty yards across. On its eastern side the blue waters of Pirates 
Bay, that is to say, of the Southern Ocean, poured their un- 
checked force. The isthmus emerged from a wild and terrible 
coast-line, into whose bowels the ravenous sea had bored strange 
caverns, resonant with perpetual roar of tortured billows. At 
one spot in this wilderness the ocean had penetrated the wall of 
rock for two hundred feet, and in stormy weather the salt spray 
rose through a perpendicular shaft more than five hundred feet 
deep. This place was called the Devil's Blow-hole. The 
upper drop of the earring was named Forrestier's Peninsula, 
and was joined to the mainland by another isthmus called East 
Bay Neck. Forrestier's Peninsula was an almost impenetrable 
thicket, growing to the brink of a perpendicular cliff of basalt. 

Eaglehawk-Neck was the door to the prison, and it was kept 
bolted. On the narrow strip of land was built a guard-house, 



"A NATURAL PENITENTIARY: 1 305 

where soldiers from the barrack on the mainland relieved each 
other night and day ; and on stages, set out in the water in 
either side, watch-dogs were chained. The station officer was 
charged "to pay especial attention to the feeding and care" of 
these useful beasts, being ordered " to report to the Commandant 
whenever any one of them became useless." It may be added 
that the Bay was not innocent of sharks. Westward from 
Eaglehawk-Neck and Woody Island, lay the dreaded Coal 
Mines. Sixty of the " marked men " were stationed here under 
a strong guard. At the Coal Mines was the northernmost cf 
that ingenious series of semaphores Avhich rendered escape 
almost impossible. The wild and mountainous character of the 
peninsula offered peculiar advantages to the signalmen. On the 
summit of the hill which overlooked the guard tower of the 
settlement was a gigantic gum-tree stump, upon the top of which 
was placed a semaphore. This semaphore communicated with 
the two wings of the prison — Eaglehawk-Neck and the Coal 
Mines — by sending a line of signals right across the peninsula. 
Thus, the settlement communicated with Mount Arthur, Mount 
Arthur with One-tree Hill, One-tree Hill with Mount Com- 
munication, and Mount Communication with the Coal Mines. 
On the other side, the signals would run thus — the settlement to 
Signal Hill, Signal Hill to Woody Island, Woody Island to 
Eaglehavvk. Did a prisoner escape from the Coal Mines, the 
guard at Eaglehawk-Neck could be aroused, and the whole 
island informed of the "bolt" in less than twenty minutes. 
With these advantages of nature and art, the prison was held 
to be the most secure in the world. Colonel Arthur reported to 
the Home Government that the spot which bore his name was 
a " natural penitentiary." The worthy disciplinarian probably 
took as a personal compliment the polite forethought of the 
Almighty, in thus considerately providing for the carrying out 
of the celebrated "Regulations for Convict Discipline." 



30 



306 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



CHAPTER XXI. 
A VISIT OF INSPECTION. 

ONE afternoon the ever-active semaphores transmitted a 
piece of intelligence which set the peninsula agog. 
Captain Frere, having arrived from head- quarters, with 
orders to hold an inquiry into the death of Kirkland, was not 
unlikely to make a progress through the stations, and it behoved 
the keepers of the Natural Penitentiary to produce their Peni- 
tents in good case. Burgess was in high spirits at finding so 
congenial a soul selected for the task of reporting upon him. 

" It's only a nominal thing, old man," Frere said to his former 
comrade, when they met. " That parson has made meddling, 
and they want to close his mouth." 

" I am glad to have the opportunity of showing you and 
Mrs. Frere the place," returned Burgess. " I must try and 
make your stay as pleasant as I can, though I'm afraid that 
Mrs. Frere will not find much to amuse her." 

" Frankly, Captain Burgess," said Sylvia, " I would rather 
have gone straight to Sydney. My husband, however, was 
obliged to come, and of course I accompanied him." 

" You will not have much society," said Meekin, who was of 
the welcoming party. " Mrs. Datchett, the wife of one of our 
stipendiaries, is the only lady here, and I hope to have the 
pleasure of making you acquainted with her this evening 
at the Commandant's. Mr. McNab, whom you know, is in 
command at the Neck, and cannot leave, or you would have 
seen him." 

" I have planned a little party," said Burgess, " but I fear that 
it will not be so successful as I could wish." 

" You wretched old bachelor," said Frere, " you should get 
married, like me." 

" Ah ! " said Burgess, with a bow, " that would be difficult." 

Sylvia was compelled to smile at the compliment, made in 
the presence of some twenty prisoners, who were carrying the 
various trunks and packages up the hill, and she remarked that 
the said prisoners grinned at the Commandant's clumsy 
courtesy. 

" I don't like Captain Burgess, Maurice," she said, in the 



A VISIT OF INSPECTION. 307 

interval before dinner. " I dare say he did flog that poor fellow 
to death. He looks as if he could do it." 

"Nonsense!" said Maurice, pettishly; "he's a good fellow 
enough. Besides, I've seen the doctor's certificate. It's a 
trumped-up story. I can't understand your absurd sympathy 
with prisoners " 

" Don't they sometimes deserve sympathy ? " 

"No, certainly not — a set of lying scoundrels. You are 
always whining over them, Sylvia. I don't like it, and I've 
told you before about it." 

Sylvia said nothing. Maurice was often guilty of these small 
brutalities, and she had learnt that the best way to meet them 
was by silence. Unfortunately, silence did not mean indiffer- 
ence, for the reproof was unjust, and nothing stings a woman's 
fine sense like an injustice. 

Burgess had prepared a feast, and the "Society" of Port 
Arthur was present. Father Flaherty, Meckin, Doctor Mackle- 
wain, and Mr. and Mrs. Datchett had been invited, and the 
dining-room was resplendent with glass and flowers. 

" I've a fellow who was a professional gardener," said 
Burgess to Sylvia during the dinner, " and I make use of 
his talents." 

" We have a professional artist also," said Macklcwain, with 
a sort of pride. " That picture of the ' Prisoner of Chillon ' 
yonder was painted by him. A very meritorious production, is 
it not ? " 

" I've got the place full of curiosities," said Burgess ; " quite 
a collection. I'll show them to you to-morrow. Those napkin 
rings were made by a prisoner." 

" Ah !" cried Frere, taking up the daintily-carved bone, "very 
neat ! " 

"That is some of Rex's handiwork," said Meekin. "He is 
very clever at these trifles. He made me a paper-cutter that 
was really a work of art." 

"We will go down to the Neck to-morrow or next day 
Mrs. Frere," said Burgess, " and you shall see the Blo\v T hole. I 
is a curious place." 

" Is it far ?" asked Sylvia. 

" Oh no ! We shall go in the train. " 

" The train ! " 

" Yes — don't look so astonished. You'll sec it to-morrow 



3 o8 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



Oh, you Hobart Town ladies don't know what we can do 
here." 

"What about this Kirkland business?" Frere asked. "I 
suppose I can have half an hour with you in the morning, and 
take the depositions ? " 

" Any time you like, my dear fellow," said Burgess. " It's all 
the same to me." 

" / don't want to make more fuss than I can help," Frere said 
apologetically — the dinner had been good — "but I must send 
these people up a 'full, true, and particular,' don't you 
know." 

"Of course," cried Burgess, with friendly nonchalance. 
"That's all right. I want Mrs. Frere to see Point Puer." 

"Where the boys are ? " asked Sylvia. 

" Exactly. Nearly three hundred of 'em. We'll go down to- 
morrow, and you shall be my witness, Mrs. Frere, as to the way 
they are treated." 

" Indeed," said Sylvia, protesting, " I would rather not. I — 
I don't take the interest in these things that I ought, perhaps. 
They are very dreadful to me." 

" Nonsense ! " said Frere, with a scowl. " We'll come, 
Burgess, of course." 

The next two days were devoted to sight-seeing. Sylvia was 
taken through the Hospital and the Workshops, shown the 
semaphores, and shut up by Maurice in a "dark cell." Her 
husband and Burgess seemed to treat the prison like a tame 
animal, whom they could handle at their leisure, and whose 
natural ferocity was kept in check by their superior intelligence. 
This bringing of a young and pretty woman into immediate 
contact with bolts and bars had about it an incongruity which 
pleased them. Maurice penetrated everywhere, questioned the 
prisoners, jested with the jailers, even, in the munificence of his 
heart, bestowed tobacco on the sick. 

With such graceful rattlings of dry bones, they got by-and-by 
to Point Puer, where a luncheon had been provided. 

An unlucky accident had occurred at Point Puer that morning, 
however, and the place was in a suppressed ferment. A refrac- 
tory little thief named Peter Brown, aged twelve years, had 
jumped off the high rock and drowned himself in full view 
of the constables. These "jumpings off" had become rather 
frequent lately, and Burgess was enraged at one happening on 



A VISIT OF INSPECTION. 309 



this particular day. If he could by any possibility have brought 
the corpse of poor little Peter Brown to life again, he would 
have soundly whipped it for its impertinence. 

" It is most unfortunate," he said to Frere, as they stood in 
the cell where the little body was laid, " that it should have 
happened to-day." 

" Oh," says Frere, frowning down upon the young face that 
seemed to smile up at him. " It can't be helped. I know those 
young devils. They'd do it out of spite. What sort of a 
character had he ? " 

" Very bad — Johnson, the book." 

Johnson bringing it, the two saw Peter Brown's iniquities set 
down in the neatest of running hand, and the record of his 
punishments ornamented in quite an artistic way with flourishes 
of red ink. 

"20th November, disorderly conduct, 12 lashes. 24th No- 
vember, insolence to hospital attendant, diet reduced. 4th 
December, stealing cap from another prisoner, 12 lashes. 15th 
December, absenting himself at roll call, two clays' cells. 23rd 
December, insolence and insubordination, two days' cells. 8th 
January, insolence and insubordination, 12 lashes. 20th Janu- 
ary, insolence and insubordination, 12 lashes. 22nd February, 
insolence and insubordination, 12 lashes and one week's solitary. 
6th March, insolence and insubordination, 20 lashes." 

" That was the last ? " asked Frere. 

" Yes, sir," says Johnson. 

" And then he— hum— did it ? " 

"Just so, sir. That was the way of it." 

Just so ! The magnificent system starved and tortured a 
child of twelve until he killed himself. That was the way of it. 

After luncheon the party made a progress. Everything was 
most admirable. There was a long schoolroom, where such 
men as Meekin taught how Christ loved little children ; and 
behind the schoolroom were the cells and the constables and 
the little yard where they gave their "twenty lashes." Sylvia 
shuddered at the array of faces. From the stolid nineteen 
years old booby of the Kentish hop-fields, to the wizened, 
shrewd, ten years old Bohemian of the London streets, all 
degrees and grades of juvenile vice grinned, in untamable 
wickedness, or snuffled in affected piety. " Suffer little children 
to come unto Me, and forbid them not, for of such is the King- 



310 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

dom of Heaven," said, or is reported to have said, the Founder 
of our Established Religion. Of such it seemed that a large 
number of Honourable Gentlemen, together with Her Majesty's 
faithful Commons in Parliament assembled, had done their best 
to create a Kingdom of Hell. 

After the farce had been played again, and the children had 
stood up and sat down, and sung a hymn, and told how many 
twice five were, and repeated their belief in " One God the 
•Father Almighty, maker of Heaven and Earth," the party 
reviewed the workshops, and saw the church, and went every- 
where but into the room where the body of Peter Brown, aged 
twelve, lay starkly on its wooden bench, staring at the gaol roof 
which was between it and Heaven. 

Just outside this room, Sylvia met with a little adventure. 
Meekin had stopped behind, and Burgess, being suddenly sum- 
moned for some official duty, Frere had gone with him, leaving 
his wife to rest on a bench that, placed at the summit of the 
cliff, overlooked the sea. While resting thus, she became aware 
of another presence, and, turning her head, beheld a small boy, 
with his cap in one hand and a hammer in the other. The 
appearance of the little creature, clad in a uniform of grey cloth 
that was too large for him, and holding in his withered little 
hand a hammer that was too heavy for him, had something 
pathetic about it. 

" What is it, you mite ? " asked Sylvia. 

" We thought you might have seen him, mum," said the little 
figure, opening its blue eyes with wonder at the kindness of the 
tone. 

" Him ! Whom ? " 

" Cranky Brown, mum," returned the child ; " him as did it 
this morning. Me and Billy knowed him, mum ; he was a 
mate of ours, and we wanted to know if he looked happy." 

" What do you mean, child ? " said she, with a strange terror 
at her heart ; and then, filled with pity at the aspect of the little 
being, she drew him to her, with sudden womanly instinct, and 
kissed him. 

He looked up at her with joyful surprise. 
. " Oh ! " he said. 

Sylvia kissed him again. 

"Does nobody ever kiss you, poor little man?" said she. 

*' Mother used to," was the reply, " but she's at home. Oh, 



A VISIT OF INSPECTION. 311 



mum," with a sudden crimsoning of the little face, "may I fetch 
Billy ? " 

And taking courage from the bright young face, he gravely 
marched to an angle of the rock, and brought out another little 
creature, with another grey uniform and another hammer. 

" This is Billy, mum," he said. " Billy never had no mother. 
Kiss Billy." 

The young wife felt the tears rush to her eyes. "You two 
poor babies ! " she cried. And then, forgetting that she was a 
lady, dressed in silk and lace, she fell on her knees in the dust, 
and, folding the friendless pair in her arms, wept over them. 

" What is the matter, Sylvia ? " said Frere, when he came 
up. " You've been crying." • 

" Nothing, Maurice ; at least, I will tell you by-and-by." 

When they were alone that evening, she told him of the two 
little boys, and he laughed. 

" Artful little humbugs," he said, and supported his argument 
by so many illustrations of the precocious wickedness of juvenile 
felons, that his wife was half convinced against her will. 
* * * * * 

Unfortunately, when Sylvia went away, Tommy and Billy put 
into execution a plan which they had carried in their poor little 
heads for some weeks. 

" I can do it now," said Tommy. " I feel strong." 

"Will it hurt much, Tommy?" said Billy, who was not so 
courageous. 

" Not so much as a whipping." 

" I'm afraid ! Oh, Tom, it's so deep ! Don't leave me 
Tom ! " 

The bigger boy took his little handkerchief from his neck, 
and with it bound his own left hand to his companion's right. 

" Now I can't leave you." 

" What was it the lady that kissed us said, Tommy?" 

" Lord, have pity of them two fatherless children ! " repeated 
Tommy. 

" Let's say it, Tom." 

And so the two babies knelt on the brink of the cliff, and 
raising the bound hands together, looked up at the sky, and 
ungrammatically said, " Lord, have pity on we two fatherless 
children ! " And then they kissed each other, and " did it." 
***** 



312 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

The intelligence, transmitted by the ever-active semaphore, 
reached the Commandant in the midst of dinner, and in his 
agitation he blurted it out. 

" These are the two poor things I saw in the morning," cried 
Sylvia. " Oh, Maurice, these two poor babies driven to suicide !" 

" Condemning their young souls to everlasting fire," said 
Meekin, piously. 

" Mr. Meekin ! How can you talk like that ! Poor little 
creatures ! Oh, it's horrible ! Maurice, take me away." And 
she burst into a passion of weeping. 

" / can't help it, ma'am," says Burgess, rudely, ashamed. 
" It ain't my fault." 

" She's nervous," says Frere, leading her away. " You must 
excuse her. Come and lie down, dearest." 

" I will not stay here longer," said she. " Let us go to- 
morrow." 

" We can't," said Frere. 

" Oh, yes, we can. I insist. Maurice, if you love me, take 
me away." 

" Well," said Maurice, moved by her evident grief, " I'll try." 

He spoke to Burgess. " Burgess, this matter has unsettled 
my wife, so that she wants to leave at once. I must visit the 
Neck, you know. How can we do it?" 

" Well," says Burgess, " if the wind only holds, the brig could 
go round to Pirates' Bay and pick you up. You'll only be a 
night at the barracks." 

" I think that would be best," said Frere. " We'll start to- 
morrow, please, and if you'll give me a pen and ink I'll be 
obliged." 

" I hope you are satisfied," said Burgess. 

" Oh, quite," said Frere. " I must recommend more careful 
supervision at Point Puer, though. It will never do to have 
these young blackguards slipping through our fingers in this way." 

So a neatly written statement of the occurrence was appended 
to the ledgers in which the names of William Tomkins and 
Thomas Grove were entered. Macklewain held an inquest, 
and nobody troubled about them any more. Why should they ? 
The prisons of London were full of such Tommys and Billys. 
* * "* * # 

Sylvia passed through the rest of her journey in a dream of 
terror. The incident of the children had shaken her nerves, 



A VISIT OF INSPECTION. 313 

and she longed to be away from the place and its associations. 
Even Eaglehawk-Neck, with its curious dog stages and its 
" natural pavement," did not interest her. McNab's blandish- 
ments were wearisome. She shuddered as she gazed into 
the boiling abyss of the Blow-hole, and shook with fear as the 
Commandant's "train" rattled over the dangerous tramway 
that wound across the precipice to Long Bay. The "train" 
was composed of a number of low waggons pushed and dragged 
up the steep inclines by convicts, who drew themselves up in 
the waggons when the trucks dashed down the slope, and acted 
as drags. Sylvia felt degraded at being thus drawn by human 
beings, and trembled when the lash cracked, and the convicts 
answered to the sting — like cattle. Moreover, there was among 
the foremost of these beasts of burden a face that had dimly 
haunted her girlhood, and only lately vanished from her dreams. 
This face looked on her — she thought — with bitterest loathing 
and scorn, and she felt relieved when at the mid-day halt its 
owner was ordered to fall out from the rest, and was with four 
others re-chained for the homeward journey. Frere, struck 
with the appearance of the five, said, " By Jove, Poppet, there 
are our old friends Rex and Dawes, and the others. They 
won't let 'em come all the way, because they are such a despe- 
rate lot, they might make a rush for it." Sylvia comprehended 
now : the face was the face of Dawes ; and as she looked after 
him, she saw him suddenly raise his hands above his head with 
a motion that terrified her. She felt for an instant a great 
shock of pitiful recollection. Staring at the group, she strove 
to recall when and how Rufus Dawes, the wretch from whose 
clutches her husband had saved her, had ever merited her pity, 
but her clouded memory could not complete the picture, and as 
the waggons swept round a curve, and the group disappeared, 
she awoke from her reverie w-ith a sigh. 

" Maurice," she whispered, " how is it that the sight of that 
man always makes me sad ? " 

Her husband frowned, and then caressing her, bade her 
forget the man and the place and her fears. " I was wrong to 
have insisted on your coming," he said. They stood on the 
deck of the Sydney-bound vessel the next morning, and watched 
the " Natural Penitentiary" grow dim in the distance. "You 
were not strong enough." 

* * * # * 



314 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

" Dawes," said John Rex, " you love that girl ! Now that 
you've seen her another man's wife, and have been harnessed 
like a beast to drag him along the road, while he held her in 
his arms ! — now that you've seen and suffered that, perhaps 
you'll join us." 

Rufus Dawes made a movement of agonized impatience. 

" You'd better. You'll never get out of this place any other 
way. Come, be a man ; join us ! " 

" No ! " 

" It is your only chance. Why refuse it ? Do you want to 
live here all your life ? " 

" I want no sympathy from you or any other. I will not join 
you." 

Rex shrugged his shoulders and walked away. " If you 
think to get any good out of that ' inquiry,' you are mightily 
mistaken," said he, as he went. " Frere has put a stopper upon 
that you'll find." 

He spoke truly. Nothing more was heard of it, only that, 
some six months afterwards, Mr. North, when at Paramatta, 
received an official letter (in which the expenditure of wax and 
printing and paper was as large as it could be made) which 
informed him that the " Comptroller-General of the convict 
department had decided that further inquiry concerning the 
death of the prisoner named in the margin was unnecessary," 
and that some gentleman with an utterly illegible signature 
"had the honour to be his most obedient servant.'' 



CHAPTER XXII. 

GATHERING IN THE THREADS. 

MAURICE found his favourable expectations of Sydney 
fully realized. His notable escape from death at 
Macquarie Harbour, his alliance with tire daughter of 
so respected a colonist as Major Vickers, and his reputation as 
a convict disciplinarian, rendered him a man of note. He 
received a vacant magistracy, and became even more noted for 
hardness of heart and artfulness of prison knowledge than 
before. The convict population spoke of him as " that —— 



GATHERING IN THE THREADS. 315 

Frere," and registered vows of vengeance against him, which 
he laughed — in his bluffness — to scorn. 

One anecdote concerning the method by which he shepherded 
his flock will suffice to show his character and his value. It 
was his custom to visit the prison-yard at Hyde Park Barracks 
twice a week. Visitors to convicts were, of course, armed, and 
the two pistol-butts that peeped from Frere's waistcoat attracted 
many a longing eye. How easy would it be for some fellow to 
pluck one forth and shatter the smiling, hateful face of the noted 
disciplinarian ! Frere, however, brave to rashness, never would 
bestow his weapons more safely, but lounged through the yards 
with his hands in the pockets of his shooting-coat, and the 
deadly butts ready to the hand of any one bold enough to take 
them. 

One day a man named Kavanagh, a captured absconder, who 
had openly sworn in the dock the death of the magistrate, 
walked quickly up to him as he was passing through the yard, 
and snatched a pistol from his belt. The yard caught its breath, 
and the attendant warder, hearing the click of the lock, instinct- 
ively turned his head away, so that he might not be blinded by 
the flash. But Kavanagh did not fire. At the instant when his 
hand was on the pistol, he looked up and met the magnetic 
glance of Frere's imperious eyes. An effort, and the spell would 
have been broken. A twitch of the finger, and his enemy would 
have fallen dead. There was an instant when that twitch of 
the finger could have been given, but Kavanagh let that instant 
pass. The dauntless eye fascinated him. He played with the 
pistol nervously, while all remained stupefied. Frere stood, 
without withdrawing his hands from the pockets into which 
they were plunged. 

" That's a fine pistol, Jack," he said at last. 

Kavanagh, down whose white face the sweat was pouring, 
burst into a hideous laugh of relieved terror, and thrust the 
weapon, cocked as it was, back again into the magistrate's belt. 

Frere slowly drew one hand from his pocket, took the cocked 
pistol and levelled it at his recent assailant. " That's the best 
chance yoiCll ever get, Jack," said he. 

Kavanagh fell on his knees. " For God's sake, Captain 
Frere ! " 

Frere looked down on the trembling wretch, and then un- 
cocked the pistol, with a laugh of ferocious contempt. " Get 



31 6 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



up, you dog," he said. " It takes a better man than you to best 
me. Bring him up in the morning, Hawkins, and we'll give him 
five-and-twenty." 

As he went out — so great is the admiration for Power — the 
poor devils in the yard cheered him. 

One of the first things that this useful officer did upon his 
arrival in Sydney was to inquire for Sarah Purfoy. To his 
astonishment, he discovered that sLe was the proprietor of large 
export warehouses in Pitt-street, owned a neat cottage on one 
of the points of land which jutted into the bay, and was reputed 
to possess a banking account of no inconsiderable magnitude. 
He in vain applied his brains to solve this mystery. His cast- 
off mistress had not been rich when she left Van Diemen's 
Land — at least, so she had assured him, and appearances bore 
out her assurance. How had she accumulated this sudden 
wealth ? Above all, why had she thus invested it ? He made 
inquiries at the banks, but was snubbed for his pains. Sydney 
banks in those days did some queer business. 

" Mrs. Purfoy had come to them fully accredited," said the 
manager with a smile. 

" But where did she get the money ? " asked the magistrate. 
" I am suspicious of these sudden fortunes. The woman was a 
notorious character in Hobart Town, and when she left hadn't 
a penny." 

" My dear Captain Frere," said the acute banker — his father 
had been one of the builders of the " Rum Hospital " — " it is not 
the custom of our bank to make inquiries into the previous 
history of its customers. The bills were good, you may depend, 
or we should not have honoured them. Good morning ! " 

" The bills ! " Frere saw but one explanation. Sarah had 
received the proceeds of some of Rex's rogueries. Rex's letter 
to his father, and the mention of the sum of money " in the 
old house in Blue Anchor Yard," flashed across his memory. 
Perhaps Sarah had got the money from the receiver and 
appropriated it. But Why invest it in an oil and tallow ware- 
house ? He had always been suspicious of the woman, because 
he had never understood her, and his suspicions redoubled. 
Convinced that there was some plot hatching, he determined to 
use all the advantages that his position gave him to discover 
the secret and bring it to light. The name of the man to 



GATHERING IN THE THREADS. 317 

whom Rex's letter had been addressed was " Blick." He would 
find out if any of the convicts under his care had heard of 
Blick. Prosecuting his inquiries in the proper direction, he 
soon obtained a reply. Blick was a London receiver of stolen 
goods, known to at least a dozen of the black sheep of the 
Sydney fold. He was reputed to be enormously wealthy, had 
often been tried, but never convicted. Frere was thus not much 
nearer enlightenment than before, and an incident occurred a 
few months afterwards which increased his bewilderment. He 
had not been long established in his magistracy, when Blunt 
came to claim payment for the voyage of Sarah Purfoy. 
"There's that schooner going begging, one may say, sir," said 
Blunt, when the office door was shut. 

"What schooner?" 

" The Franklin.''' 

Now the Franklin was a vessel of three hundred and twenty 
tons, which plied between Norfolk and Sydney, as the Osprey 
had plied in the old days between Macquarie Harbour and 
Hobart Town. " I am afraid that is rather stiff, Blunt," said 
Frere. "That's one of the best billets going, you know. I 
doubt if I have enough interest to get it for you. Besides," he 
added, eyeing the sailor critically, "you are getting oldish for 
that sort of thing, ain't you ? " 

Phineas Blunt stretched his arms wide, and opened his 
mouth, full of sound white teeth. " I am good for twenty years 
more yet, sir," he said. " My father was trading to the Indies 
at seventy five years of age. I'm hearty enough, thank God ; 
for, barring a drop of rum now and then, I've no vices to speak 
of. However, I ain't in a hurry, Captain, for a month or so; 
only I thought I'd jog your memory a bit, d'ye see." 

" Oh, you're not in a hurry ; where are you going then ? " 

" Well," said Blunt, shifting on his seat, uneasy under Frere's 
convict disciplined eye, " I've got a job on hand." 

" Glad of it, I'm sure. What sort of a job?" 

"A job of whaling," said Blunt, more uneasy than before. 

" Oh, that's it, is it ? Your old line of business. And who 
employs you now?" There was no suspicion in the tone, and 
had Blunt chosen to evade the question, he might have done so 
without difficulty, but he replied as one who had anticipated 
such questioning, and had been advised how to answer it. 

" Mrs. Purfoy." 



318 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

" What ! " cried Frere, scarcely able to believe his ears. 

" She's got a couple of ships now, Captain, and she made me 
skipper of one of 'em. We look for beshdellamare,* and take 
a turn at harpooning sometimes." 

Frere stared at Blunt, who stared at the window. There was 
— so the instinct of the magistrate told him — some strange 
project afoot. Yet that common sense which so often misleads 
us, urged that it was quite natural Sarah should employ whaling 
vessels to increase her trade. Granted that there was nothing 
wrong about her obtaining the business, there was nothing 
strange about her owning a couple of whaling vessels. There 
were people in Sydney, of no better origin, who owned half-a- 
dozen. " Oh," said he. " And when do you start ? " 

" I'm expecting to get the word every day," returned Blunt, 
apparently relieved, " and I thought I'd just come and see you 
first, in case of anything falling in." Frere played with a pen- 
knife on the table in silence for a while, allowing it to fall 
through his fingers with a series of sharp clicks, and then he 
said, " Where does she get the money from ? " 

" Blest if I know ! " said Blunt, in unaffected simplicity. 
" That's beyond me. She says she saved it. But that's all my 
eye, you know." 

" You don't know anything about it, then," cried Frere, 
suddenly fierce. 

" No, not I." 

" Because, if there's any game on, she'd better take care," he 
cried, relapsing, in his excitement, into the convict vernacular. 
" She knows me. Tell her that I've got my eyes on her. Let 
her remember her bargain. If she runs any rigs on me, let her 
take care." In his suspicious wrath he so savagely and un- 
warily struck downwards with the open penknife that it shut 
upon his fingers, and cut him to the bone. 

" I'll tell her," said Blunt, wiping his brow. •' I'm sure she 
wouldn't go to sell you. But I'll look in when I come back, 
sir." When he got outside he drew a long breath. " By the 
Lord Harry, but it's a ticklish game to play," he said to himself, 
with a lively recollection of the dreaded Frere's vehemence ; 
" and there's only one woman in the world I'd be fool enough 
to play it for.* 



* B£che-de-la-mer. 



GATHERING IN THE THREADS. 319 



Maurice Frere, oppressed with suspicions, ordered his horse 
that afternoon, and rode down to see the cottage which the 
owner of " Purfoy Stores " had purchased. He found it a low 
white building, situated four miles from the city, at the extreme 
end of a tongue of land which ran into the deep waters of the 
harbour. A garden, carefully cultivated, stood between the 
roadway and the house, and in this garden he saw a man 
digging. 

"Does Mrs. Purfoy live here?" he asked, pushing open one 
of the iron gates. 

The man replied in the affirmative, staring at the visitor with 
some suspicion. 
"Is she at home ?" 
" No." 

" You are sure ? " 

" If you don't believe me, ask at the house," was the reply, 
given in the uncourteous tone of a free man. 

Frcre pushed his horse through the gate, and walked up the 
broad and well-kept carriage drive. A man-servant in livery, 
answering his ring, told him that Mrs. Purfoy had gone to town, 
and then shut the door in his face. Frere, more astonished 
than ever at these outward and visible signs of independence, 
paused indignant, feeling half inclined to enter despite opposi- 
tion. As he looked through the break of the trees, he saw the 
masts of a brig lying at anchor off the extremity of the point 
on which the house was built, and understood that the cottage 
commanded communication by water as well as by land. Could 
there be a special motive in choosing such a situation, or was it 
mere chance ? He was uneasy, but strove to dismiss his alarm. 
Sarah had kept faith with him so far. She had entered upon 
a new and more reputable life, and why should he seek to 
imagine evil where perhaps no evil was ? Blunt was evidently 
honest. Women like Sarah Purfoy often emerged into a condi- 
tion of comparative riches and apparent domestic virtue. It 
was likely that, after all, some wealthy merchant was the real 
owner of house and garden, pleasure yacht, and tallow ware- 
house, and that he had no cause for fear. 

The experienced convict disciplinarian did not rate the ability 
of John Rex high enough. 

From the instant the convict had heard his sentence of life 
banishment, he had determined upon escaping, and had brought 



320 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



all the powers of his acute and unscrupulous intellect to the 
consideration of the best method of achieving his purpose. 
His first care was to procure money. This he thought to do by 
writing to Blick, but when informed by Meekin of the fate of 
his letter, he adopted the — to him — less pleasant alternative of 
procuring it through Sarah Purfoy. 

It was peculiar to the man's hard and ungrateful nature that, 
despite the attachment of the woman who had followed him to 
his place of durance, and had made it the object of her life to 
set him free, he had cherished for her no affection. It was her 
beauty that had attracted him, when, as Mr. Lionel Crofton, he 
swaggered in the night-society of London. Her talents and her 
devotion were secondary considerations — useful to him as attri- 
butes of a creature he owned, but not to be thought of when 
his fancy wearied of its choice. During the twelve years which 
had passed since his rashness had delivered him into the hands 
of the law at the house of Green, the coiner, he had been 
oppressed with no regrets for her fate. He had, indeed, seen 
and suffered so much, that the old life had been put away from 
him. When, on his return, he heard that Sarah Purfoy was 
still in Hobart Town, he was glad, for he knew that he had an 
ally who would do her utmost to help him — she had shown that 
on board the Malabar. But he was also sorry, for he remem- 
bered that the price she would demand for her services was his 
affection, and that had cooled long ago. However, he would 
make use of her. There might be a way to discard her if she 
proved troublesome. 

His pretended piety had accomplished the end he had 
assumed it for. Despite Frere's exposure of his cryptograph, 
he had won the confidence of Meekin ; and into that worthy 
creature's ear he poured a strange and sad history. He was 
the son, he said, of a clergyman of the Church of England, 
whose real name, such was his reverence for the cloth, should 
never pass his lips. He was transported for a forgery which 
he did not commit. Sarah Purfoy was his wife — his erring, 
lost, and yet loved wife. She, an innocent and trusting girl, 
had determined — strong in the remembrance of that promise 
she had made at the altar — to follow her husband to his place 
of doom, and had hired herself as lady's-maid to Mrs. Vickers. 
Alas ! fever prostrated that husband on a bed of sickness, and 
Maurice Frere, the profligate and the villain, had taken 



GATHERING IN THE THREADS. 321 

advantage of the wife's unprotected state to ruin her ! Rex 
darkly hinted how the seducer made his power over the sick 
and helpless husband a weapon against the virtue of the wife 
and so terrified poor Meekin, that, had it not " happened so 
long ago," he would have thought it necessary to look with 
some disfavour upon the boisterous son-in-law of Major 
Vickers. 

"I bear him no ill-will, sir," said Rex. "I did at first. 
There was a time when I could have killed him, but when I 
had him in my power, I — as you know — forbore to strike. 
No, sir, I could not commit murder ! " 

" Very proper," says Meekin, " very proper indeed." 

"God will punish him in His own way, and His own time," 
continued Rex. " My great sorrow is for the poor woman. 
She is in Sydney, I have heard, living respectably, sir ; and 
my heart bleeds for her." Here Rex heaved a sigh that would 
have made his fortune on the boards. 

"My poor fellow," said Meekin. "Do you know where she 
is?" 

" I do, sir." 

" You might write to her." 

John Rex appeared to hesitate, to struggle with himself, and 
finally to take a deep resolve. " No, Mr. Meekin, I will not 
write." 

" Why not ? * 

" You know the orders, sir — the Commandant reads all the 
letters sent. Could I write to my poor Sarah what other eyes 
were to read ?" and he watched the parson slyly. 

" N — no, you could not," said Meekin, at last. 

" It is true, sir," said Rex, letting his head sink on his 
breast. 

The next day, Meekin, blushing with the consciousness that 
what he was about to do was wrong, said to his penitent, " If 
you will promise to write nothing that the Commandant might 
not see, Rex, I will send your letter to your wife." 

" Heaven bless you, sir," said Rex, and took two days to 
compose an epistle which should tell Sarah Purfoy how to act. 
The letter was a model of composition in one way. It stated 
everything clearly and succinctly. Not a detail that could 
assist was omitted — not a line that could embarrass was 
suffered to remain. John Rex's scheme of six months' de- 

21 



322 HIS NATURAI LIFE. 

liberation was set down in the clearest possible manner. He 
brought his letter unsealed to Meekin. Meekin looked at it 
with an interest that was half suspicion. " Have I your word 
that there is nothing in this that might not be read by the 
Commandant ? " 

John Rex was a bold man, but at the sight of the deadly 
thing fluttering open in the clergyman's hand, his knees 
knocked together. Strong in his knowledge of human nature, 
however, he pursued his desperate plan. " Read it, sir," he 
said, turning away his face reproachfully. " You are a gentle- 
man. I can trust you." 

" No, Rex," said Meekin, walking loftily into the pitfall ; " I 
do not read private letters." It was sealed, and John Rex felt 
as if somebody had withdrawn a match from a powder barrel. 

In a month, Mr. Meekin received a letter, beautifully 
written, from " Sarah Rex," stating briefly that she had heard 
of his goodness, that the enclosed letter was for her husband, 
and that if it was against the rules to give it him, she begged it 
might be returned to her unread. Of course Meekin gave it to 
Rex, who next morning handed to Meekin a most touching 
and pious production, begging him to read it. Meekin did so, 
and any suspicions he may have had were at once disarmed. 
He was ignorant of the fact that the pious letter contained a 
private one intended for John Rex only, which letter John Rex 
thought so highly of, that, having read it twice through most 
attentively, he ate it. 

The plan of escape was after all a simple one. Sarah Purfoy 
was to obtain from Blick the moneys he held in trust, and to 
embark the sum thus obtained in any business which would 
suffer her to keep a vessel hovering round the southern coast 
of Van Diemen's Land without exciting suspicion. The escape 
was to be made in the winter months, if possible, in June or 
July. The watchful vessel was to be commanded by some 
trustworthy person, who was to frequently land on the south- 
eastern side, and keep a look-out for any extraordinary appear- 
ance along the coast. Rex himself must be left to run the 
gauntlet of the dogs and guards unaided. " This seems a 
desperate scheme," wrote Rex, "but it is not so wild as it 
looks. I have thought over a dozen others, and rejected them 
all. This is the only way. Consider it well. I have my own 
plan for escape, which is easy if rescue be at hand. All depends 



GATHERING IN THE THREADS. 323 

upon placing a trustworthy man in charge of the vessel. You 
ought to know a dozen such. I will wait eighteen months 
to give you time to make all arrangements." The eighteen 
months had now nearly passed over, and the time for the 
desperate attempt drew near. Faithful to his cruel philosophy, 
John Rex had provided scape-goats who, by their vicarious 
agonies, should assist him to his salvation. 

He had discovered that of the twenty men in his gang eight 
had already determined on an effort for freedom. The names 
of these eight were Gabbett, Vetch, Bodenham, Cornelius, 
Greenhill, Sanders, called the " Moocher," Cox, and Travers. 
The leading spirits were Vetch and Gabbett, who, with pro- 
found reverence, requested the " Dandy " to join. John Rex, 
ever suspicious, and feeling repelled by the giant's strange 
eagerness, at first refused, but by degrees allowed himself to 
appear to be drawn into the scheme. He would urge these 
men to their fate, and take advantage of the excitement atten- 
dant on their absence to effect his own escape. " While all 
the island is looking for these eight boobies, I shall have a 
good chance to slip away unmissed." He wished, however, to 
have a companion. Some strong man, who, if pressed hard, 
would turn and keep the pursuers at bay, would be useful 
without doubt ; and this comrade-victim he sought in Rufus 
Dawes. 

Beginning, as we have seen, from a purely selfish motive, to 
urge his fellow-prisoner to abscond with him, John Rex gra- 
dually found himself attracted into something like friendliness 
by the sternness with which his overtures were repelled. 
Always a keen student of human nature, the scoundrel saw 
beneath the roughness with which it had pleased the un- 
fortunate man to shroud his agony, how faithful a friend and 
how ardent and undaunted a spirit was concealed. There was, 
moreover, a mystery about Rufus Dawes which Rex, the reader 
of hearts, longed to fathom. 

"Have you no friends whom you would wish to see?" he 
asked, one evening, when Rufus Dawes had proved more than 
usually deaf to his arguments. 

" No," said Dawes, gloomily. " My friends are all dead to 
me." 

" What, all ? " asked the other. " Most men have some one 
whom they wish to see." 



^24 II IS NATURAL LIFE. 



Rufus Dawes laughed a slow, heavy laugh. " I am better 
here." 

" Then, are you content to live this dog's life ?" 

" Enough, enough," said Dawes, " I am resolved." 

" Pooh ! Pluck up a spirit," cried Rex. " It can't fail. 
I've been thinking of it for eighteen months, and it can't fail." 

" Who are going ? " asked the other, his eyes fixed on the 
ground. 

John Rex enumerated the eight, and Dawes raised his head. 
" I won't go. I have had two trials at it ; I don't want another. 
I would advise you not to attempt it either." 

"Why not?" 

" Gabbett bolted twice before," said Rufus Dawes, shuddering 
at the remembrance of the ghastly object he had seen in the 
sunlit glen at Hell's Gates. " Others went with him, but each 
time he returned alone." 

" What do you mean ! " asked Rex, struck by the tone of his 
companion. 

" What became of the others ? " 

" Died, I suppose," said the Dandy, with a forced laugh. 

" Yes ; but how ? They were all without food. How came 
the surviving monster to live six weeks ? " 

John Rex grew a shade paler, and did not reply. He 
recollected the sanguinary legend that pertained to Gabbett's 
rescue. But he did not intend to make the journey in his 
company, so, after all, he had no cause for fear. " Come with 
me then," he said, at length. " We will try our luck together." 

" No. I have resolved. I stay here." 

u And leave your innocence unproved." 

"How can I prove it?" cried Rufus Dawes, roughly 
impatient. " There are crimes committed which are never 
brought to light, and this is one of them." 

" Well,' 3 said Rex, rising, as if weary of the discussion, 
"have it your own way, then. You know best. The private 
detective game is hard work. I, myself, have gone on a wild- 
goose chase before now. There's a mystery about a certain 
shipbuilder's son which took me four months to unravel, and 
then I lost the thread." 

"A shipbuilder 's son / Who was he ? " 

John Rex paused in wonderment at the eager interest with 
which the question was put, and then hastened to take 



GATHERING IN THE THREADS. 325 

advantage of this new opening for conversation. "A queer 
story. A well-known character in my time — Sir Richard 
Devine. A miserly old curmudgeon, with a scapegrace son." 

Rufus Dawes bit his lips to avoid showing his emotion. This 
was the second time that the name of his dead father had been 
spoken in his hearing. " I think I remember something of 
him," he said, with a voice that sounded strangely calm in his 
own ears. 

"A curious story," said Rex, plunging into past memories. 
" Amongst other matters, I dabbled a little in the Private 
Inquiry line of business, and the old man came to me. He had 
a son who had gone abroad — a wild young dog, by all accounts 
— and he wanted particulars of him." 

" Did you get them ? " 

" To a certain extent. I hunted him through Paris into 
Brussels, from Brussels to Antwerp, from Antwerp back to 
Paris. I lost him there. A miserable end to a long and 
expensive search. I got nothing but a portmanteau with a lot 
of letters from his mother. I sent the particulars to the ship- 
builder, and by all accounts the news killed him, for he died 
not long after." 

"And the son?" 

" Came to the queerest end of all. The old man had left him 
his fortune — a large one, I believe — but he'd left Europe, it 
seems, for India, and was lost in the Hydaspcs. Frere was his 
cousin." 

" Ah ! " 

" By Gad, it annoys me when I think of it," continued Rex, 
feeling, by force of memory, once more the adventurer of 
fashion. " With the resources I had too ! Oh, a miserable 
failure ! The days and nights I've spent walking about looking 
for Richard Devine, and never catching a glimpse of him. 
The old man gave me his son's portrait, with full particulars of 
his early life, and I suppose I carried that ivory gimcrack in my 
breast for nearly three months, pulling it out to refresh my 
memory every half-hour. By Gad, if the young gentleman was 
anything like his picture, I could have sworn to him if I'd met 
him in Timbuctoo." 

" Do you think you'd know him again?" asked Rufus Dawes 
in a low voice, turning away his head. 

There may have been something in the attitude in which the 



326 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

speaker had put himself that awakened memory, or perhaps the 
subdued eagerness of the tone, contrasting so strangely with the 
comparative inconsequence of the theme, that caused John Rex : s 
brain to perform one of those feats of automatic synthesis at 
which we afterwards wonder. The profligate son — the likeness 
to the portrait — the mystery of Dawes's life ! These were the 
links of a galvanic chain. He closed the circuit, and a vivid 
flash revealed to him — THE Man. 

Warder Troke coming up, put his hand on Rex's shoulder. 
" Dawes," he said, " you're wanted at the yard ; " and then, 
seeing his mistake, added with a grin, " Curse you two ; you're 
so much alike one can't tell t'other from which." 

Rufus Dawes walked off moodily ; but John Rex's evil face 
turned pale, and a strange hope made his heart leap. 

" Gad, Troke's right, we are alike. I'll not press him to 
escape any more" 



CHAPTER XXIII. 

RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 



THE Pretty Mary — as ugly and evil-smelling a tub as 
ever pitched under a southerly burster — had been lying 
on and off Cape Surville for nearly three weeks. Captain 
Blunt was getting wearied. He made strenuous efforts to find 
the Oyster-beds of which he was ostensibly in search, but no 
success attended his efforts. In vain did he take boat and pull 
into every cove and nook between the Hippolyte Reef and 
Schouten's Island. In vain did he run the Pretty Mary as 
near to the rugged cliffs as he dared to take her, and make 
perpetual expeditions to the shore. In vain did he — in his 
eagerness for the interests of Mrs. Purfoy — clamber up the 
rocks, and spend hours in solitary soundings in Blackman's 
Bay. He never found an oyster. " If I don't find something 
in three or four days more," said he to his mate, " I shall go 
back again. It's too dangerous cruising here." 

***** 
On the same evening that Captain Blunt made this resolution, 
the watchman at Signal Hill saw the arms of the semaphore at 
the settlement make three motions, thus : 



RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 327 

The semaphore was furnished with three revolving arms, 
fixed one above the other. The upper one denoted units, and 
had six motions, indicating one to Six. The middle one 
denoted tens, ten to sixty. The lower one marked hundreds/ 

from ONE HUNDRED to SIX HUNDRED. 

The lower and upper arms whirled out. That meant THREE 

HUNDRED AND SIX. 

A ball ran up to the top of the post That meant ONE 
THOUSAND. 

Number 1306, or, being interpreted, " Prisoners Ab- 
sconded." 

"By George, Harry," said Jones, the signalman, "there's a 
bolt ! " 

The semaphore signalled again : " Number 141 1." 

" With arms ! " Jones said, translating as he read. " Come 
here, Harry ! here's a go ! " 

But Harry did not reply, and looking down, the watchman 
saw a dark figure suddenly fill the doorway. The boasted 
semaphore had failed this time at all events. The "bolters" 
had arrived as soon as the signal ! 

The man sprang at his carbine, but the intruder had already 
possessed himself of it. " It's no use making a fuss, Jones ! 
There are eight of us. Oblige me by attending to your 
signals.'' 

Jones knew the voice. It was that of John Rex. " Reply, 
can't you ? " said Rex, coolly. " Captain Burgess is in a hurry." 
The arms of the semaphore at the settlement were, in fact, 
gesticulating with comical vehemence. 

Jones took the strings in his hands, and, with his signal-book 
open before him, was about to acknowledge the message, when 
Rex stopped him. " Send this message," he said. " NOT SEEN 1 
Signal sent to Eagleiiawk ! " 

Jones paused irresolutely. He was himself a convict, and 
dreaded the inevitable cat, that he knew would follow this false 

message. "If they finds me out "he said. Rex cocked the 

carbine with so decided a meaning in his black eyes, that Jones 
— who could be brave enough on occasions — banished his 
hesitation at once, and began to signal eagerly. There came 
up a clinking of metal, and a murmur from below. " What's 
keeping yer, Dandy ? " 

" All right Get those irons off, and then we'll talk, boys. 



328 ILLS NATURAL LIFE. 

I'm putting salt on old Burgess's tail." The rough jest was 
received with a roar, and Jones, looking momentarily down 
from his window on the staging, saw, in the waning light, a 
group of men freeing themselves from their irons with a hammer 
taken from the guard-house ; while two, already freed, were 
casting buckets of water on the beacon wood-pile. The sentry 
was lying bound at a little distance. 

" Now," said the leader of this surprise party, " signal to 
Woody Island." Jones perforce obeyed. " Say, ' An Escape 
at the Mines ! Watch One-tree Point ! Send on to 
Eaglehawk ! ' Quick, now." 

Jones — comprehending at once the force of this manoeuvre, 
which would have the effect of distracting attention from the 
Neck — executed the order with a grin. " You're a knowing one, 
Dandy Jack," said he. 

John Rex acknowledged the compliment by uncocking the 
carbine. "Hold out your hands! — Jemmy -Vetch ! " "Ay, 
ay," replied the Crow, from beneath. " Come up and tie our 
friend Jones. Gabbett, have you got the axes?" "There's 
only one," said Gabbett, with an oath. " Then bring that, and 
any tucker you can lay your hands on. Have you tied him? 
On we go then." And in the space of five minutes from the 
time when unsuspecting Harry had been silently clutched by 
two forms, who rushed upon him out of the shadow of the huts, 
the Signal Hill Station was deserted. 

At the settlement Burgess was foaming. Nine men to seize 
the Long Bay boat, and get half-an-hour's start of the alarm- 
signal, was an unprecedented achievement ! What could 
Warder Troke have been about ! Warder Troke, however, 
found eight hours afterwards, disarmed, gagged, and bound in 
the scrub, had been guilty of no negligence. How could he 
tell, that at a certain signal from Dandy Jack, the nine men he 
had taken to Stewart's Bay would " rush " him ; and, before he 
could draw a pistol, truss him like a chicken ? The worst of 
the gang, Rufus Dawes, had volunteered for the hated duties 
of pile-driving, and Troke had felt himself secure. How could 
he possibly guess that there was a plot, in which Rufus Dawes, 
of all men, had refused to join ? 

Constables, mounted and on foot, were despatched to scour 
the bush round the settlement. Burgess, confident from the 
reply of the Signal Hill semaphore, that the alarm had been 



RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 329 

given at Eaglehawk Isthmus, promised himself the re-capture 
of the gang before many hours ; and giving orders to keep the 
communications going, retired to dinner. His convict-servants 
had barely removed the soup when the result of John Rex's 
ingenuity became manifest. 

The semaphore at Signal Hill had stopped working. 

" Perhaps the fools can't see," said Burgess. " Fire the 
beacon — and saddle my horse." The beacon was fired. All 
right at Mount Arthur, Mount Communication, and the Coal 
Mines. To the westward, the line was clear. But at Signal 
Hill was no answering light. Burgess stamped with rage. 
" Get me my boat's crew ready ; and tell the Mines to signal to 
Woody Island." As he stood on the jetty, a breathless mes- 
senger brought the reply. "A boat's crew gone to One- 
Tree Point! Five men sent from Eaglehawk in 
obedience TO orders ! " Burgess understood it at once. 
The fellows had decoyed the Eaglehawk guard. "Give way, 
men ! " And the boat, shooting into the darkness, made for 
Long Bay. " I won't be far behind 'em," said the Command- 
ant, "at any rate." 

Between Eaglehawk and Signal Hill were, for the absconders, 
other dangers. Along the indented coast of Port Bunche were 
four constables' stations. These stations — mere huts within 
signalling distance of each other — fringed the shore, and to 
avoid them, it would be necessary to make a circuit into the 
scrub. Unwilling as he was to lose time, John Rex saw that to 
attempt to run the gauntlet of these four stations would be 
destruction. The safety of the party depended upon the reach- 
ing of the Neck while the guard was weakened by the absence 
of some of the men along the southern shore, and before the 
alarm could be given from the eastern arm of the peninsula. 
With this view, he ranged his men in single file ; and quitting 
the road near Norfolk Bay, made straight for the Neck. The 
night had set in with a high westerly wind, and threatened rain. 
It was pitch dark ; and the fugitives were guided only by the 
dull roar of the sea as it beat upon Descent Beach. Had it not 
been for the accident of a westerly gale, they would not have 
had even so much assistance. 

The Crow walked first, as guide, carrying a musket taken 
from Harry. Then came Gabbett, with the axe ; followed by 



33Q HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



the other six, sharing between them such provisions as they had 
obtained at Signal Hill. John Rex, with the carbine, and 
Troke's pistols, walked last. It had been agreed that if 
attacked they were to run each one his own way. In their 
desperate case, disunion was strength. At intervals, on their 
left, gleamed the lights of the constables' stations, and as they 
stumbled onward they heard plainer and more plainly the hoarse 
murmur of the sea, beyond which was liberty or death. 

After nearly two hours of painful progress, Jemmy Vetch 
-Stopped, and whispered them to approach. They were on a 
sandy rise. To the left was a black object ; — a constable's hut ; 
to the right was a dim white line ; — the ocean ; in front was a 
row of lamps, and between every two lamps leapt and ran a 
dusky indistinct body. Jemmy Vetch pointed with his lean 
forefinger. 

" The dogs ! " 

Instinctively they crouched down, lest even at that distance 
the two sentries, so plainly visible in the red light of the guard- 
house fire, should see them. 

" Well bo's," said Gabbett, "what's to be done now ? " 

As he spoke, a long low howl broke from one of the chained 
hounds, and the whole kennel burst into hideous outcry. 

John Rex, who perhaps was the bravest of the party, shud- 
dered. They have smelt us," he said. " We must go on." 

Gabbett spat in his palm, and took firmer hold of the axe- 
handle. " Right you are," he said. " I'll leave my mark on 
some of them before this night's out ! " 

On the opposite shore lights began to move, and the fugitives 
could hear the hurrying tramp of feet. 

" Make for the right-hand side of the jetty," said Rex in a 
fierce whisp&r. " I think I see a boat there. It is our only 
chance now. We can never break through the station. Are 
we ready ? Now ! All together !" 

Gabbett was fast outstripping the others by some three feet of 
distance. There were eleven dogs, two of whom were placed 
on stages set out in the water, and they were so chained that 
their muzzles nearly touched. The giant leapt into the line, and 
with a blow of his axe split the skull of the beast on his right 
hand. This action unluckily took him within reach of the other 
dog, who seized him by the thigh. 

"Fire !" cried McNab from the other side of the lamps. 



RUNNING THE GAUNTLET. 331 

The giant uttered a cry of rage and pain, and fell with the 
dog under him. It was, however, the dog who had pulled him 
down, and the musket-ball intended for him struck Travers in 
the jaw. The unhappy villain fell — like Virgil's Dares — 
" spitting blood, teeth, and curses." 

Gabbett clutched the mastiff's throat with iron hand, and 
forced him to loose his hold ; then, bellowing with fury, seized 
his axe and sprang forward, mangled as he was, upon the nearest 
soldier. Jemmy Vetch had been beforehand with him. Uttering 
a low snarl of hate, he fired, and shot the sentry through the 
breast. The others rushed through the now broken cordon, 
and made headlong for the boat. 

" Fools ! " cried Rex behind them, " You have wasted a 
shot ! Look to your left ! " 

Burgess, hurried down the tram-road by his men, had tarried 
at Signal Hill only long enough to loose the surprised guard 
from their bonds, and taking the Woody Island boat was pull- 
ing with a fresh crew to the Neck. The reinforcement was not 
ten yards from the jetty. 

The Crow saw the danger, and flinging himself into the water, 
desperately seized McNab's boat. 

" In with you for your lives ! " he cried. 

Another volley from the guard spattered the water around 
the fugitives, but in the darkness the ill-aimed bullets fell harm- 
less. Gabbett swung himself over the sheets, and seized an 
oar. 

" Cox, Bodenham, Greenhill ! Now, push her off ! Jump, 
Tom, jump ! " and as Burgess leapt to land, Cornelius was 
dragged over the stern, and the whale-boat floated into deep 
water. 

McNab, seeing this, ran down to the water side to aid the 
Commandant. 

" Lift her over the Bar, men ! " he shouted. " With a will — 
So ! " And raised in twelve strong arms, the pursuing craft 
slid across the isthmus. 

" We've five minutes' start," said Vetch, coolly, as he saw the 
Commandant take his place in the stern sheets. " Pull away, 
my jolly boys, and we'll best 'em yet." 

The soldiers on the Neck fired again almost at random, but 
the blaze of their pieces only served to show the Commandant's 



332 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

boat a hundred yards astern of that of the mutineers, which 
had already gained the deep water of Pirates Bay. 

Then, for the first time, the six prisoners became aware that 
John Rex was not among them. 



CHAPTER XXIV. 

IN THE NIGHT. 



JOHN REX had put into execution the first part of his 
scheme. 
At the moment when, seeing Burgess's boat near the 
sand-pit, he had uttered the warning cry heard by Vetch, he 
turned back into the darkness, and made for the water's edge 
at a point some distance from the Neck. His desperate hope 
was that, the attention of the guard being concentrated on the 
escaping boat, he might, favoured by the darkness and the 
confusion — swim to the peninsula. It was not a very mar- 
vellous feat to accomplish, and he had confidence in his own 
powers. Once safe on the peninsula, his plans were formed. 
But, owing to the strong westerly wind, which caused an in- 
coming tide upon the isthmus, it was necessary for him to 
attain some point sufficiently far to the southward to enable 
him, on taking Hie water, to be assisted, not impeded, by the 
current. With this view, he hurried over the sandy hammocks 
at the entrance to the Neck, and ran backwards towards the 
sea. In a few strides he had gained the hard and sandy shore, 
and, pausing to listen, heard behind him the sound of footsteps. 
He was pursued. The footsteps stopped, and then a voice 
cried — 

" Surrender ! " 

It was McNab, who, seeing Rex's retreat, had daringly 
followed him. John Rex drew from his breast Troke's pistol 
and waited. 

" Surrender ! " cried the voice again, and the footsteps ad- 
vanced two paces. 

At the instant that Rex raised the weapon to fire, a vivid 
flash of lightning showed him, on his right hand, on the ghastly 
and pallid ocean, two boats, the hindermost one apparently 



IN THE NIGHT. 333 



within a few yards of him. The men looked like corpses. In 
the distance rose Cape Surville, and beneath Cape Surville was 
the hungry sea. The scene vanished in an instant — swallowed 
up almost before he had realised it. But the shock it gave him 
made him miss his aim, and flinging away the pistol with a 
curse, he turned down the path and fled. McNab followed. 

The path had been made by frequent passage from the 
Station, and Rex found it tolerably easy running. He had 
acquired — like most men who live much in the dark — that 
cat-like perception of obstacles, which is due rather to in- 
creased sensitiveness of touch than increased acuteness of 
vision. His feet accommodated themselves to the inequalities 
of the ground ; his hands instinctively outstretched themselves 
towards the overhanging boughs ; his head ducked of its own 
accord to any obtrusive sapling which bent to obstruct his 
progress. His pursuer was not so fortunate. Twice did 
John Rex laugh mentally, at a crash and scramble that told 
of a fall, and once — in a valley where trickled a little stream that 
he had cleared almost without an effort — he heard a splash 
that made him laugh outright. The track now began to go 
uphill, and Rex redoubled his efforts, trusting to his superior 
muscular energy to shake off his pursuer. He breasted the 
rise, and paused to listen. The crashing of branches behind 
him had ceased, and it seemed that he was alone. 

He had gained the summit of the cliff. The lights of the 
Neck were invisible. Below him lay the sea. Out of the 
black emptiness came puffs of sharp salt wind. The tops of 
the rollers that broke below were blown off and whirled away 
into the night — white patches, swallowed up immediately in the 
increasing darkness. From the north side of the bay was 
borne the hoarse roar of the breakers as they dashed against 
the perpendicular cliffs which guarded Forestier's Peninsula. 
At his feet arose a frightful shrieking and whistling, broken at 
intervals by reports like claps of thunder. Where was he? 
Exhausted and breathless, he sank down into the rough scrub 
and listened. All at once, on the track over which he had 
passed, he heard a sound that made him bound to his feet in 
deadly fear — the bay of a dog ! 

He thrust his hand to his breast for the remaining pistol, and 
uttered a cry of alarm. He had dropped it. He felt round 
about him in the darkness for some stick or stone that might 



334 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

serve as a weapon. In vain. His fingers clutched nothing but 
prickly scrub and coarse grass. The sweat ran down his face. 
With staring eyeballs, and bristling hair, he stared into the 
darkness, as if he would dissipate it by the very intensity of his 
gaze. The noise was repeated, and, piercing through the roar 
of wind and water, above and below him, seemed to be close 
at hand. He heard a man's voice cheering the dog in accents 
that the gale blew away from him before he could recognize 
them. It was probable that some of the soldiers had been sent 
to the assistance of McNab. Capture, then, was certain. In 
his agony, the wretched man almost promised himself repent- 
ance, should he escape this peril. The dog, crashing through 
the underwood, gave one short, sharp howl, and then ran 
mute. 

The darkness had increased with the gale. The wind, 
ravaging the hollow heaven, had spread between the lightnings 
and the sea an impenetrable curtain of black cloud. It seemed 
possible to seize upon this curtain and draw its edge yet closer, 
so dense was it. The white and raging waters were blotted 
out, and even the lightning seemed unable to penetrate that 
intense blackness. A large, warm drop of rain fell upon Rex's 
outstretched hand, and far overhead rumbled a wrathful peal 
of thunder. The shrieking which he had heard a few moments 
ago had ceased, but every now and then dull but immense 
shocks, as of some mighty bird flapping the cliff with monstrous 
wings, reverberated around him, and shook the ground where 
he stood. He looked towards the ocean, and a tall misty 
Form — white against the all-pervading blackness— beckoned 
and bowed to him. He saw it distinctly for an instant, and 
then, with an awful shriek, as of wrathful despair, it sank and 
vanished. Maddened with a terror he could not define, the 
hunted man turned to meet the material peril that was so close 
at hand. 

With a ferocious gasp, the dog flung himself upon him. John 
Rex was borne backwards, but, in his desperation, he clutched 
the beast by the throat and belly, and exerting all his strength, 
flung him off. The brute uttered one howl, and seemed to lie 
where he had fallen ; while above his carcase again hovered 
that white and vaporous column. It was strange that McNab 
and the soldier did not follow up the advantage they had 
gained. Courage — perhaps he should defeat them yet I He 



IN THE NIGHT. 335 



had been lucky to dispose of the dog so easily. With a fierce 
thrill of renewed hope, he ran forward ; when at his feet, in his 
face, arose that misty Form, breathing chill warning, as though 
to wave him back. The terror at his heels drove him on. A 
few steps more, and he should gain the summit of the cliff. 
He cov\& feci the sea roaring in front of him in the gloom. 
The column disappeared ; and in a lull of wind, uprose from 
the place where it had been, such a hideous medley of shrieks, 
laughter, and exultant wrath, that John Rex paused in horror. 
Too late. The ground gave way — it seemed — beneath his 
feet. He was falling — clutching, in vain, at rocks, shrubs, and 
grass. The cloud-curtain lifted, and by the lightning that 
leaped and played about the ocean, John Rex found an explana- 
tion of his terrors, more terrible than they themselves had 
been. The track he had followed led to that portion of the 
cliff in which the sea had excavated the tunnel-spout known 
as the Devil's Blow-Hole. 

Clinging to a tree that, growing half way down the precipice, 
had arrested his course, he stared into the abyss. Before him 
—already high above his head — was a gigantic arch of cliff. 
Through this arch he saw, at an immense distance below him, 
the raging and pallid ocean. Beneath him was an abyss 
splintered with black rocks, turbid and raucous with tortured 
water. Suddenly the bottom of this abyss seemed to advance to 
meet him ; or, rather, the black throat of the chasm belched a 
volume of leaping, curling water, which mounted to drown him. 
Was it fancy that showed him, on the surface of the rising 
column, the mangled carcase of the dog ? 

The chasm into which John Rex had fallen was shaped like a 
huge funnel set up on its narrow end. The sides of this funnel 
were rugged rock, and in the banks of earth lodged here and 
there upon projections, a scrubby vegetation grew. The scanty 
growth paused abruptly half way down the gulf, and the rock 
below was perpetually damp from the upthrown spray. Acci- 
dent—had the convict been a Mcekin, we might term it Provi- 
dence — had lodged him on the lowest of these banks of earth. 
In calm weather he would have been out of danger, but the 
lightning-flash revealed to his terror-sharpened senses a black 
patch of dripping rock on the side of the chasm some ten feet 
above his head. It was evident that upon the next rising of the 
water-spout the place where he stood would be covered with water. 



336 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

The roaring column mounted with hideous swiftness. Rex 
felt it rush at him and swing him upward. With both arms 
round the tree, he clutched the sleeves of his jacket with either 
hand. Perhaps if he could maintain his hold, he might out- 
live the shock of that suffocating torrent. He felt his feet rudely 
seized, as though by the hand of a giant, and plucked upwards. 
Water gurgled in his ears. His arms seemed about to be torn 
from their sockets. Had the strain lasted another instant, he 
must have loosed his hold ; but, with a wild hoarse shriek, as 
though it was some sea-monster baffled of its prey, the column 
sank, and left him gasping, bleeding, half drowned, but alive. 
It was impossible that he could survive another shock, and in 
his agony he unclasp :d his stiffened fingers, determined to 
resign himself to his fate. At that instant, however, he saw on 
the wall of rock that hollowed on his right hand, a red and 
lurid light, in the midst of which fantastically bobbed hither 
and thither the gigantic shadow of a man. He cast his eyes 
upwards and saw, slowly descending into the gulf, a blazing 
bush tied to a rope. McNab was taking advantage of the pause 
in the spouting to examine the sides of the Blow-hole. 

A despairing hope seized John Rex. In another instant the 
light would reveal his figure, clinging like a limpet to the rock, 
to those above. He must be detected in any case ; but if they 
could lower the rope sufficiently quickly, he might clutch it and 
be saved. His dread of the horrible death that was beneath him 
overcame his resolution to avoid recapture. The long-drawn 
agony of the retreating water as it was sucked back again into 
the throat of the chasm had ceased, and he knew that the next 
tremendous pulsation of the sea below would hurl the spuming 
destruction up upon him. The gigantic torch slowly descended 
and he had already drawn in his breath for a shout which 
should make itself heard above the roar of the wind and water, 
when a strange appearance on the face of the cliff made him 
pause. About six feet from him — glowing like molten gold in 
the gusty glow of the burning tree — a round, sleek stream of 
water slipped from the rock into the darkness, like a serpent 
from its hole. Above this stream a dark spot defied the torch- 
light, and John Rex felt his heart leap with one last desperate 
hope as he comprehended that close to him was one of those 
tortuous drives which the worm-like action of the sea bores in 
such caverns as that in which be found himself. The drive, 



IN THE NIGHT. 337 



opened first to the light of the day by the natural convulsion 
which had raised the mountain itself above ocean level, 
probably extended into the bowels of the cliff. The stream 
ceased to let itself out of the crevice ; it was then likely that 
the rising column of water did 'not penetrate far into this 
wonderful hiding-place. 

Endowed with a wisdom, which in one placed in less 
desperate position would have been madness, John Rex shouted 
to his pursuers, " The rope ! the rope ! " The words, projected 
against the sides of the enormous funnel, were pitched high 
above the blast, and, reduplicated by a thousand echoes, reached 
the ears of those above. 

" He's alive ! " cried McNab, peering into the abyss. " I see 
him. Look ! " 

The soldier whipped the end of the bullock-hide lariat round 
the tree to which he held, and began to oscillate it, so that the 
blazing bush might reach the ledge on which the daring convict 
sustained himself. The groan which preceded the fierce belch- 
ing forth of the torrent was cast up to them from below. 

"God be gude to the puir felly!" said the pious young 
Scotchman, catching his breath. 

A white spume was visible at the bottom of the gulf, and the 
groan changed into a rapidly increasing bellow. John Rex, 
eyeing the blazing pendulum, that with longer and longer swing 
momentarily neared him, looked up to the black heaven for the 
last time, with a muttered prayer. The bush — the flame fanned 
by the motion — flung a crimson glow upon his frowning features 
which as he caught the rope had a sneer of triumph on them. 
" Slack out ! slack out ! " he cried ; and then, drawing the 
burning bush towards him, attempted to stamp out the fire with 
his feet. 

The soldier set his body against the tree trunk, and gripped 
the rope hard, turning his head away from the fiery pit below 
him. " Hold tight, your honour," he muttered to McNab. 
" She's coming ! " 

The bellow changed into a roar, the roar into a shriek, and 
with a gust of wind and spray, the seething sea leapt up out of 
the gulf. 

John Rex, unable to extinguish the flame, twisted his arm 
about the rope, and the instant before the sui face of the rising 
water made a momentary floor to the mouth of the cavern, he 

22 



238 HTS NATURAL LIFE. 



spurned the cliff desperately with his feet, and flung himself 
across the chasm. He had already clutched the rock, and 
thrust himself forward, when the tremendous volume of water 
struck him. McNab and the soldier felt the sudden pluck of 
the rope and saw the light swing across the abyss. Then the 
fury of the waterspout burst with a triumphant scream, the 
tension ceased, the light was blotted out, and when the column 
sank, there dangled at the end of the lariat nothing but the 
drenched and blackened skeleton of the she-oak bough. Amid 
a terrific peal of thunder, the long pent-up rain descended, and 
a sudden ghastly rending asunder of the clouds showed far 
below them the heaving ocean, high above them the jagged 
and glistening rocks, and at their feet the black and murder- 
ous abyss of the Blow-hole — empty. 

They pulled up the useless rope in silence ; and another dead 
tree lighted and lowered showed them nothing. 

" God rest his puir soul,'' said McNab, shuddering. " He's 
oot o' our han's." 



CHAPTER XXV. 

THE FLIGHT. 



GABBETT, guided by the Crow, had determined to beach 
the captured boat on the southern point of Cape Surville. 
It will be seen by those who have followed the descrip- 
tion of the topography of Colonel Arthur's Penitentiary, that 
nothing but the desperate nature of the attempt could have 
justified so desperate a measure. The perpendicular cliffs 
seemed to render such an attempt certain destruction ; but 
Vetch, who had been employed in building the pier at the Neck, 
knew that on the southern point of the promontory was a strip 
of beach, upon which the company might, by good fortune, land 
in safety. With something of the decision of his leader, Rex, 
the Crow determined at once that in their desperate plight this 
was the only measure, and setting his teeth as he seized the oar 
that served as a rudder, he put the boat's head straight for the 
huge rock that formed the northern horn of Pirates' Bay. 

Save for the faint phosphorescent radiance of the foaming 



THE FLIGHT. 339 



waves, the darkness was intense, and Burgess for some minutes 
pulled almost at random in pursuit. The same tremendous 
Hash of lightning which had saved the life of McNab, by caus- 
ing Rex to miss his aim, showed to the Commandant the whale- 
boat balanced on the summit of an enormous wave, and 
apparently about to be flung against the wall of rock which — 
magnified in the sudden flash — seemed frightfully near to them. 
The next instant Burgess himself— his boat lifted by the swiftly 
advancing billow — saw a wild waste of raging sea scooped into 
abysmal troughs, in which the bulk of a leviathan might wallow. 
At the bottom of one of these valleys of water lay the mutineers' 
boat, looking, with its outspread oars, like some six-legged 
insect floating in a pool of ink. The great cliff, whose every 
scar and crag was as distinct as though its huge bulk was but 
a yard distant, seemed to shoot out from its base towards the 
struggling insect, a broad, flat straw, that was a strip of dry 
land. The next instant the rushing water, carrying the six- 
legged atom with it, creamed up over this strip of beach; the 
giant crag, amid the thunder-crash which followed upon the 
lightning, appeared to stoop down over the ocean, and as it 
stooped, the billow rolled onwards, the boat glided down into 
the depths, and the whole phantasmagoria was swallowed up 
in the tumultuous darkness of the tempest. 

Burgess — his hair bristling with terror — shouted to put the 
boat about, but he might with as much reason have shouted at 
an avalanche. The wind blew his voice away, and emptied it 
violently into the air. A snarling billow jerked the oar from his 
hand. Despite the desperate efforts of the soldiers, the boat 
was whirled up the mountain of water like a leaf on a water- 
spout, and a second flash of lightning showed them what seemed 
a group of dolls struggling in the surf, and a walnut-shell bottom 
upwards was driven by the recoil of the waves towards them. 
For an instant all thought that they must share the fate which 
had overtaken the unlucky convicts ; but Burgess succeeded in 
trimming the boat, and, awed by the peril he had so narrowly 
escaped, gave the order to return. As the men set the boat's 
head to the welcome line of lights that marked the Neck, a 
black spot balanced upon a black line was swept under their 
stern and carried out to the sea. As it swooped past them, this 
black spot emitted a cry, and they knew that it was one of the 
shattered boat's crew clinging to an oar. 



34Q HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

" He was the only one of 'em alive," said Burgess, bandaging 
his sprained wrist two hours afterwards at the Neck, " and he's 
food for the fishes by this time ! " 

He was mistaken, however. Fate had in reserve for the crew 
of villains a less merciful death than that of drowning. Aided 
by the lightning, and that wonderful " good luck " which urges 
villainy to its destruction, Vetch beached the boat, and the 
party, bruised and bleeding, reached the upper portion of the 
shore in safety. Of all this number only Cox was lost. He 
was pulling stroke-oar, and being something of a laggard, stood 
in the way of the Crow, who, seeing the importance of haste in 
preserving his own skin, plucked the man backwards by the 
collar, and passed over his sprawling body to the shore. Cox, 
grasping at anything to save himself, clutched an oar, and the 
next moment found himself borne out with the overturned 
whale-boat by the under-tow. He was drifted past his only 
hope of rescue — the guard-boat — with a velocity that forbade 
all attempts at rescue, and almost before the poor scoundrel had 
time to realize his condition, he was in the best possible way of 
escaping the hanging that his comrades had so often humor- 
ously prophesied for him. Being a strong and vigorous villain, 
however, he clung tenaciously to his oar, and even unbuckling 
his leather belt, passed it round the slip of wood that was his 
salvation, girding himself to it as firmly as he was able. In 
this condition, plus a swoon from exhaustion, he was descried 
by the helmsman of the Pretty Mary, a few miles from Cape 
Surville, at daylight next morning. Blunt, with a wild hope that 
this waif and stray might be the lover of Sarah Purfoy, dead, 
lowered a boat and picked him up. Nearly bisected by the 
belt, gorged with salt water, frozen with cold, and having two 
ribs broken, the victim of Vetch's murderous quickness retained 
sufficient life to survive Blunt's remedies for nearly two hours. 
During that time he stated that his name was Cox, that he had 
escaped from Port Arthur with eight others, that John Rex was 
the leader of the expedition, that the others were all drowned, 
and that he believed John Rex had been retaken. Having 
placed Blunt in possession of these particulars, he further said 
that it pricked him to breathe, cursed Jemmy Vetch, the settle- 
ment, and the sea, and so impenitently died. 

Blunt smoked three pipes, and then altered the course of the 



THE FLIGHT. 34 r 



Pretty Mary two points to the eastward, and ran for the coast. 
It was possible that the man for whom he was searching had 
not been retaken, and was now awaiting his arrival. It was clearly 
his duty — hearing of the planned escape having been actually 
attempted — not to give up the expedition while hope remained. 

" I'll take one more look along," said he to himself. 

The Pretty Mary, hugging the coast as closely as she dared, 
crawled in the thin breeze all day, and saw nothing. It would 
be madness to land at Cape Surville, for the whole station 
would be on the alert ; so Blunt, as night was falling, stood off 
a little across the mouth of Pirates' Bay. He was walking the 
desk, groaning at the folly of the expedition, when a strange 
appearance on the southern horn of the bay made him come to 
a sudden halt. There was a furnace blazing in the bowels of 
the mountain ! Blunt rubbed his eyes and stared. He looked 
at the man at the helm. 

" Do you see anything yonder, Jem?" 

Jem — a Sydney man, who had never been round that coast 
before — briefly remarked, " Lighthouse." 

Blunt stumped into the cabin and got out his charts. No 
lighthouse was laid down there, only a mark like an anchor, 
and a note, " Remarkable Hole at this Point." A remarkable 
hole indeed ; a remarkable " lime kiln " would have been more 
to the purpose ! 

Blunt called up his mate, William Staples, a fellow whom 
Sarah Purfoy's gold had bought body and soul. William 
Staples looked at the waxing and waning glow for a while, and 
then said, in tones trembling with greed, " It's a fire. Lie to, 
and lower away the jolly-boat. Old man, that's our bird for a 
thousand pounds ! " 

The Pretty Mary shortened sail, and Blunt and Staples got 
into the jolly-boat. 

"Coin' a hoysterin', sir?" said one of the crew, with a grin, 
as Blunt threw a bundle into the stern-sheets. 

Staples thrust his tongue into his cheek. The object of the 
voyage was now pretty well understood among the carefully 
picked crew. Blunt had not chosen men who were likely to 
betray him, though, for that matter, Rex had suggested a pre- 
caution which rendered betrayal almost impossible. 

" What's in the bundle, old man ? " asked Will Staples, after 
they had got clear of the ship. 



342 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

" Clothes," returned Blunt. " We can't bring him off, if it is 
him, in his canaries. He puts on these duds, d'ye see, sinks 
Her Majesty's livery, and comes aboard, a 'shipwrecked 
mariner.'" 

" That's well thought of. Whose notion's that ? The 
Madam's, I'll be bound." 

"Ay." 

" She's a knowing one." 

And the sinister laughter of the pair floated across the 
violet water. 

" Go easy, man," said Blunt, as they neared the shore. 
" They're all awake at Eaglehawk : and if those cursed dogs 
give tongue, there'll be a boat out in a twinkling. It's lucky the 
wind's offshore." 

Staples lay on his oar and listened. The night was moonless, 
and the ship had already disappeared from view. They were 
approaching the promontory from the south-east, and the 
isthmus of the guarded Neck was hidden by the outlying cliff. 
In the south-western angle of this cliff, about midway between 
the summit and the sea, was an arch, which vomited a red and 
flickering light, that faintly shone upon the sea in the track of 
the boat. The light was lambent and uncertain, now sinking 
almost into insignificance, and now leaping up with a fierceness 
that caused a deep glow to throb in the very heart of the 
mountain. Sometimes a black figure would pass across this 
gigantic furnace-mouth, stooping and rising, as though feeding 
the fire. One might have imagined that a door in Vulcan's 
Smithy had been left inadvertently open, and that the old hero 
was forging arms for a demigod. 

Blunt turned pale. " It's no mortal," he whispered. " Let's 
go back." 

"And what will Madam say?" returned dare-devil Will 
Staples, who would have plunged into Mount Erebus had he 
been paid for it. Thus appealed to in the name of his ruling 
passion, Blunt turned his head, and the boat sped onward. 



THE WORK OF THE SEA. 343 



CHAPTER XXVI. 

THE WORK OF THE SEA. 

THE lift of the water-spout had saved John Rex's life. At 
the moment when it struck him he was on his hands and 
knees at the entrance of the cavern. The wave, gushing 
upwards, at the same time expanded, laterally, and this lateral 
force drove the convict into the mouth of the subterlapian 
passage. The passage trended downwards, and for some 
seconds he was rolled over and over, the rush of water wedging 
him at length into a crevice between two enormous stones, 
which overhung a still more formidable abyss. Fortunately for 
the preservation of his hard-fought-for life, this very fury of 
incoming water prevented him from being washed out again 
with the recoil of the wave. He could hear the water dashing 
with frightful echoes far down into the depths beyond him, but 
it was evident that the two stones against which he had been 
thrust acted as breakwaters to the torrent poured in from the 
outside, and repelled the main body of the stream in the fashion 
he had observed, from his position on the ledge. In a few 
seconds the cavern was empty. 

Painfully extricating himself, and feeling as yet doubtful of 
his safety, John Rex essayed to climb the twin- blocks that 
barred the unknown depths below him. The first movement he 
made caused him to shriek aloud. His left arm — with which he 
clung to the rope — hung powerless. Ground against the ragged 
entrance, it was momentarily paralyzed. For an instant the 
unfortunate wretch sank despairingly on the wet and rugged 
floor of the cave ; then a terrible gurgling beneath his feet 
warned him of the approaching torrent, and collecting all his 
energies, he scrambled up the incline. Though nigh fainting 
with pain and exhaustion, he pressed desperately higher and 
higher. He heard the hideous shriek of the whirlpool which 
was beneath him grow louder and louder. Pie saw the 
darkness grow darker as the rising water-spout covered the 
mouth of the cave.. He felt the salt spray sting his face, and the 
wrathful tide lick the hand that hung over the shelf on which 
he fell. But that was all. He was out of danger at last ! And 
as the thought blessed his senses, his eyes closed, and the 



344 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



wonderful courage and strength which had sustained the villain 
so long exhaled in stupor. 

When he awoke the cavern was filled with the soft light of 
dawn. Raising his eyes, he beheld, high above his head, a roof 
of rock, on which the reflection of the sunbeams, playing 
upwards through a pool of water, cast flickering colours. On 
his right hand was the mouth of the cave, on his left a terrific 
abyss, at the bottom of which he could hear the sea faintly 
lapping and washing. He raised himself and stretched his 
stiffened limbs. Despite his injured shoulder, it was imperative 
that he should bestir himself. He knew not if his escape had 
been noticed, or if the cavern had another inlet, by which 
McNab returning might penetrate. Moreover, he was wet and 
famished. To preserve the life which he had torn from the sea, 
he must have fire and food. First he examined the crevice by 
which he had entered. It was shaped like an irregular triangle, 
hollowed at the base by the action of the water which in such 
storms as that of the preceding night was forced into it by the 
rising of the sea. John Rex dared not crawl too near the edge, 
lest he should slide out of the damp and slippery orifice, and be 
dashed upon the rocks at the bottom of the Blow-hole. Craning 
his neck, he could see, a hundred feet below him, the sullenly 
frothing water, gurgling, spouting, and creaming, in huge turbid 
eddies, occasionally leaping upwards as though it longed for 
another storm to send it raging up to the man who had escaped 
its fury. It was impossible to get down that way. He turned 
back into the cavern, and began to explore in that direction. 

The twin-rocks against which he had been hurled were, in 
fact, pillars which supported the roof of the water-drive. 
Beyond them lay a great grey shadow which was emptiness, 
faintly illumined by the sea-light cast up through the bottom of 
the gulf. Midway across the grey shadow fell a strange beam 
of dusky brilliance, which cast its flickering light upon a 
wilderness of waving sea-weeds. Even in the desperate posi- 
tion in which he found himself, there survived in the vagabond's 
nature sufficient poetry to make him value the natural marvel 
upon which he had so strangely stumbled. The immense 
promontory, which, viewed from the outside, seemed as solid as 
a mountain, was in reality but a hollow cone, reft and split into 
a thousand fissures by the unsuspected action of the sea for 



THE WORK OF THE SEA. 345 

centuries. The Blow-hole was but an insignificant cranny com- 
pared with this enormous chasm. Descending with difficulty the 
steep incline, he found himself on the brink of a gallery of rock, 
which, jutting out over the pool, bore on its moist and weed- 
bearded edges signs of frequent submersion. It must be low tide 
without the rock. Clinging to the rough and root-like algae that 
fringed the ever-moist walls, John Rex crept round the projec- 
tion of the gallery, and passed at once from dimness to daylight. 
There was a broad loop-hole in the side of the honey-combed 
and wave-perforated cliff. The cloudless heaven expanded 
above him ; a fresh breeze kissed his cheek, and, sixty feet 
below him, the sea wrinkled all its lazy length, sparkling in 
myriad wavelets beneath the bright beams of morning. Not 
a sign of the recent tempest marred the exquisite harmony of 
the picture. Not a sign of human life gave evidence of the 
grim neighbourhood of the prison. From the recess out of 
which he peered nothing was visible but a sky of turquoise 
smiling upon a sea of sapphire. 

This placidity of Nature was, however, to the hunted convict 
a new source of alarm. It was a reason why the Blow-hole and 
its neighbourhood should be thoroughly searched. He guessed 
that the favourable weather would be an additional inducement 
to McNab and Burgess to satisfy themselves as to the fate of 
their late prisoner. He turned from the opening, and prepared 
to descend still farther into the rocky pathway. The sunshine 
had revived and cheered him, and a sort of instinct told him 
that the cliff so honey-combed above, could not be without some 
gully or chink at its base, which at low tide would give upon 
the rocky shore. It grew darker as he descended, and twice he 
almost turned back in dread of the gulfs on either side of him. 
It seemed to him, also, that the gullet of weed-clad rock through 
which he was crawling doubled upon itself, and led only into 
the bowels of the mountain. Gnawed by hunger, and conscious 
that in a few hours at most the rising tide would fill the sub- 
terranean passage and cut off his retreat, he pushed desperately 
onwards. He had descended some ninety feet, and had lost, in 
the devious windings of his downward path, all but the reflec- 
tion of the light from the- gallery, when he was rewarded by a 
glimpse of sunshine striking upwards. He parted two enor- 
mous masses of seaweed, whose bubble-beaded fronds hung 
curtainwise across his path, and found himself in the very 



346 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



middle of the narrow cleft of rock through which the sea was 
driven to the Blow-hole. 

At an immense distance above him was the arch of cliff. 
Beyond that arch appeared a segment of the ragged edge of the 
circular opening, down which he had fallen. He looked in vain 
for the funnel-mouth whose friendly shelter had received him. 
It was now indistinguishable. At his feet was a long reft in the 
solid rock, so narrow that he could almost have leapt across it. 
This reft was the channel of a swift black current which ran 
from the sea for fifty yards under an arch eight feet high, until 
it broke upon the jagged rocks that lay blistering in the sun- 
shine at the bottom of the circular opening in the upper cliff. 
A shudder shook the limbs of the adventurous convict. He 
comprehended that at high tide the place where he stood was 
under water, and that the narrow cavern became a subaqueous 
pipe of solid rock forty feet long, through which were spouted 
the league-long rollers of the Southern Sea. 

The narrow strip of rock at the base of the cliff was as flat as 
a table. Here and there were enormous hollows like pans, 
which the retreating tide had left full of clear, still water. The 
crannies of the rock were inhabited by small white crabs, and 
John Rex found to his delight that there was on this little shelf 
abundance of mussels, which, though lean and acrid, were 
sufficiently grateful to his famished stomach. Attached to the 
flat surfaces of the numerous stones, moreover, were coarse 
limpets. These, however, John Rex found too salt to be palat- 
able, and was compelled to reject them. A larger variety, 
however, having a succulent body as thick as a man's thumb, 
contained in long razor-shaped shells, were in some degree free 
from this objection, and he soon collected the materials for a 
meal. Having eaten and sunned himself, he began to examine 
the enormous rock, to the base of which he had so strangely 
penetrated. Rugged and worn, it raised its huge breast against 
wind and wave, secure upon a broad pedestal, which probably 
extended as far beneath the sea as the massive column itself 
rose above it. Rising thus, with its shaggy drapery of sea-weed 
clinging about its knees, it seemed to be a motionless but 
sentient being— some monster of the deep, a Titan of the ocean 
condemned ever to front in silence the fury of that illimitable 
and rarely-travelled sea. Yet — silent and motionless as he was 
— the hoary ancient gave hint of the mysteries of his revenge. 



THE WORK OF THE SEA. 347 

Standing upon the broad and sea-girt platform where surely 
no human foot but his had ever stood in life, the convict saw, 
many feet above him, pitched into a cavity of the huge sun- 
blistered boulders, an object which his sailor eye told him at 
once was part of the top hamper of some large ship. Crusted 
with shells, and its ruin so overrun with the ivy of the ocean, 
that its ropes could barely be distinguished from the weeds with 
which they were encumbered, this relic of human labour 
attested the triumph of nature over human ingenuity. Per- 
forated below by the relentless sea, exposed above to the full 
fury of the tempest ; set in solitary defiance to the waves, that 
rolling from the ice-volcano of the Southern pole, hurled their 
gathered might unchecked upon its iron front, the great rock 
drew from its lonely warfare the materials of its own silent 
vengeance. Clasped in iron arms, it held its prey, snatched 
from the jaws of the all-devouring sea. One might imagine 
that, when the doomed ship, with her crew of shrieking souls, 
had splintered and gone down, the deaf, blind giant had 
clutched this fragment, upheaved from the seething waters, 
with a thrill of savage and terrible joy. 

John Rex, gazing up at this memento of a forgotten agony, 
felt a sensation of the most vulgar pleasure. " There's wood 
for my fire ! " thought he; and mounting to the spot, he essayed 
to fling down the splinters of timber upon the platform. Long 
exposed to the sun, and flung high above the water-mark of 
recent storms, the timber had dried to the condition of touch- 
wood, and would burn fiercely. It was precisely what he 
required. Strange accident that had for years stored, upon a 
desolate rock, this fragment of a vanished and long-forgotten 
vessel, that it might aid at last to warm the limbs of a villain 
escaping from justice ! 

Striking the disintegrated mass with his iron-shod heel, John 
Rex broke off convenient portions ; and making a bag of his 
shirt, by tying the sleeves and neck, he was speedily stagger- 
ing into the cavern with a supply of fuel. He made two trips, 
flinging down the wood in the floor of the gallery that over- 
looked the sea, and was returning for a third, when his quick 
ear caught the dip of oars. He had barely time to lift the sea- 
weed curtain that veiled the entrance to the chasm, when the 
Eaglehawk boat rounded the promontory. Burgess was in the 
stern-sheets, and seemed to be making signals to some one on 



343 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



the top of the cliff. Rex, grinning behind his veil, divined the 
manoeuvre. McNab and his party were to search above, while 
the Commandant examined the gulf below. The boat headed 
direct for the passage, and, for an instant, John Rex's undaunted 
soul shivered at the thought that, perhaps after all, his pursuers 
might be aware of the existence of the cavern. Yet that was 
unlikely. He kept his ground, and the boat passed within a 
foot of him, gliding silently into the gulf. He observed that 
Burgess's usually florid face was pale, and that his left sleeve 
was cut open, showing a bandage on the arm. There had been 
some fighting, then, and it was not unlikely that his fellow- 
desperadoes had been captured ! He chuckled at his own 
ingenuity and good sense. The boat, emerging from the arch- 
way, entered the pool of the Blow-hole, and, held with the full 
strength of the party, remained stationary. John Rex watched 
Burgess scan the rocks and eddies, saw him signal to McNab, 
and then, with much relief, beheld the boat's head brought 
round to the sea-board. 

He was so intent upon watching this dangerous and difficult 
operation, that he was oblivious of an extraordinary change 
which had taken place in the interior of the cavern. The 
water, which, an hour ago, had left exposed a long reef of black 
hummock-rocks, was now spread in one foam-flecked sheet 
over the ragged bottom of the rude staircase by which he had 
descended. The tide had turned, and the sea, apparently 
sucked in through some deeper tunnel in the portion of the cliff 
which was below water, was being forced into the vault with a 
rapidity which bid fair to shortly submerge the mouth of the cave. 
The convict's feet were already wetted by the incoming waves, 
and as he turned for one last look at the boat, he saw a green 
billow heave up against the entrance to the chasm, and, almost 
blotting out the daylight, roll majestically through the arch. It 
was high time for Burgess to take his departure if he did not 
wish his whale-boat to be cracked like a nut against the roof of 
the tunnel. Alive to his danger, the Commandant abandoned 
the search after his late prisoner's corpse, and hastened to gain 
the open sea. The boat, carried backwards and upwards on 
the bosom of a monstrous wave, narrowly escaped destruction, 
and John Rex, climbing to the gallery, saw with much satisfac- 
tion the broad back of his outwitted gaoler disappear round the 
Sheltering promontory. The last efforts of his pursuers had 



THE WORK OF THE SEA. 349 

failed, and in another hour the only accessible entrance to the 
convict's retreat was hidden under three feet of furious sea- 
water. 

His gaolers were convinced of his death, and would search 
for him no more. So far, so good. Now for the last desperate 
venture — the escape from the wonderful cavern which was at 
once his shelter and his prison. Piling his wood together, and 
succeeding after many efforts, by aid of a flint and the ring 
which yet clung to his ankle, in lighting a fire, and warming 
his chilled limbs in its cheering blaze, he set himself to meditate 
upon his course of action. He was safe for the present, and 
the supply of food that the rock afforded was amply sufficient 
to sustain life in him for many days, but it was impossible that 
he could remain for many days concealed. He had no fresh 
water, and though, by reason of the soaking he had received, 
he had hitherto felt little inconvenience from this cause, the 
salt and acrid mussels speedily induced a raging thirst, which 
he could not alleviate. It was imperative that within forty- 
eight hours at farthest he should be on his way to the peninsula. 
He remembered the little stream into which — in his flight of 
the previous night — he had so nearly fallen, and hoped to be 
able, under cover of the darkness, to steal round the reef and 
reach it unobserved. His desperate scheme was then to 
commence. He had to run the gauntlet of the dogs and 
guards, gain the peninsula, and await the rescuing vessel. He 
confessed to himself that the chances were terribly against him. 
If Gabbett and the others had been recaptured — as he devoutly 
trusted — the coast would be comparatively clear ; but if they 
had escaped, he knew Burgess too well to think that he would 
give up the chase while hope of re-taking the absconders re- 
mained to him. If indeed all fell out as he had wished, he 
had still to sustain life until Blunt found him — if haply Blunt 
had not returned, wearied with useless and dangerous waiting. 

As night came on, and the firelight showed strange shadows 
waving from the corners of the enormous vault, while the 
dismal abysses beneath him murmured and muttered with 
uncouth and ghastly utterances, there fell upon the lonely man 
the terror of Solitude. Was this marvellous hiding place that 
he had discovered to be his sepulchre? Was he — a monster 
amongst his fellow-men — to die some monstrous death, en- 
tombed in this mysterious and terrible cavern of the sea? He 



350 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



tried to drive away these gloomy thoughts by sketching out 
for himself a plan of action — but in vain. In vain he strove to 
picture in its completeness that — as yet vague — design by which 
he promised himself to wrest from the vanished son of the 
wealthy shipbuilder his name and heritage. His mind, filled 
with forebodings of shadowy horror, could not give to the 
subject the calm consideration which it needed. In the midst 
of his schemes for the baffling of the jealous love of the woman 
who was to save him, and the getting to England, in ship- 
wrecked and foreign guise, as the long-lost heir to the fortune 
of Sir Richard Devine, there arose ghastly and awesome shapes 
of death and horror, with whose terrible unsubstantiality he 
must grapple in the lonely recesses of that dismal cavern. He 
heaped fresh wood upon his fire, that the bright light might 
drive out the gruesome things that lurked above, below, and 
around him. He became afraid to look behind him, lest some 
shapeless mass of mid-sea birth — some voracious polype, with 
far-reaching arms and jellied mouth ever open to devour — 
might slide up over the edge of the dripping caves below, and 
fasten upon him in the darkness. His imagination — always 
sufficiently vivid, and spurred to unnatural effect by the 
exciting scenes of the previous night — painted each patch of 
shadow, clinging bat-like to the humid wall, as some globular 
sea-spider ready to drop upon him with its viscid and clay-cold 
body, and drain out his chilled blood, enfolding him in rough 
and hairy arms. Each splash in the water beneath him, each 
sigh of the multitudinous and melancholy sea, seemed to pre- 
lude the laborious advent of some mis-shapen and ungainly 
abortion of the ooze. All the sensations induced by lapping 
water and regurgitating waves took material shape and sur- 
rounded him. All creatures that could be engendered by slime 
and salt crept forth into the firelight to stare at him. Red dabs 
and splashes that were living beings, having a strange phos- 
phoric light of their own, glowed upon the floor. The livid 
encrustations of a hundred years of humidity slipped from off 
the walls and painfully heaved their mushroom surfaces to the 
blaze. The red glow of the unwonted fire, crimsoning the wet 
sides of the cavern, seemed to attract countless blisterous and 
transparent shapelessnesses, which elongated themselves to- 
wards him.* Bloodless and bladdery things ran hither and 
thither noiselessly. Strange carapaces crawled from out of the 



THE WORK OF THE SEA. 351 

rocks. All the horrible unseen life of the ocean seemed to be 
rising up and surrounding him. He retreated to the brink of 
the gulf, and the glare of the upheld brand fell upon a rounded 
hummock, whose coronal of silky weed out-floating in the 
water looked like the head of a drowned man. He rushed 
to the entrance of the gallery, and his shadow, thrown into 
the opening, took the shape of an avenging phantom, with 
arms upraised to warn him back. 

The naturalist, the explorer, or the ship-wrecked seaman 
would have found nothing frightful in this exhibition of the 
harmless life of the Australian ocean. But the convict's guilty 
conscience, long suppressed and derided, asserted itself in this 
hour when it was alone with Nature and Night. The bitter 
intellectual power which had so long supported him succumbed 
beneath imagination — the unconscious religion of the soul. If 
ever he was nigh repentance it was then. Phantoms of his 
past crimes gibbered at him, and covering his eyes with his 
hands, he fell shuddering upon his knees. The brand, loosen- 
ing from his grasp, dropped into the gulf, and was extinguished 
with a hissing noise. As if the sound had called up some 
spirit that lurked below, a whisper ran through the cavern. 

"John Rex!" 

The hair of the convict's flesh stood up, and he cowered to 
the earth. 

" John Rex ! " 

It was a human voice ! Whether of friend or enemy he did 
not pause to think. His terror over-mastered -all other con- 
siderations. 

" Here ! here ! " he cried, and sprang to the opening of the 
vault. 

Arrived at the foot of the cliff, Blunt and Staples found them- 
selves in almost complete darkness, for the light of the 
mysterious fire, which had hitherto guided them, had neces- 
sarily disappeared. Calm as was the night, and still as was 
the ocean, the sea yet ran with silent but dangerous strength 
through the channel which led to the Blow-hole ; and Blunt, 
instinctively feeling the boat drawn towards some unknown 
peril, held off the shelf of rocks out of reach of the current. A 
sudden flash of fire, as from a flourished brand, burst out above 
them, and floating downwards through the darkness, in erratic 



MS NATURAL LIFE. 



circles, came an atom of burning wood. Surely no one but a 
hunted man would lurk in such a savage retreat. 

Blunt, in desperate anxiety, determined to risk all upon one 
venture. "John Rex!" he shouted up through his rounded 
hands. The light flashed again at the eye-hole of the moun- 
tain, and on the point above them appeared a wild figure, 
holding in its hands a burning log, whose fierce glow illumined 
a face so contorted by deadly fear and agony of expectation, 
that it was scarce human. 
" Here ! here ! " 

" The poor devil seems half-crazy," said Will Staples, under 
his breath ; and then aloud, " We're Friends ! " 

A few moments sufficed to explain matters. The terrors 
which had oppressed John Rex disappeared in human pre- 
sence, and the villain's coolness returned. Kneeling on the 
rock platform, he held parley. 

" It is impossible for me to come down now," he said. "The 
tide covers the only way out of the cavern." 

"Can't you dive through it ?" said Will Staples. 
" No, nor you neither," said Rex, shuddering at the thought 
of trusting himself to that horrible whirlpool. 

"What's to be done ? You can't come down that wall." 
"Wait until morning," returned Rex, coolly. "It will be 
dead low tide at seven o'clock. You must send a boat at six, 
or thereabouts. It will be low enough for me to get out, I dare 
say, by that time." 
" But the Guard ? " 

" -Won't come here, my man. They've got their work to 

do in watching the Neck and exploring after my mates. They 
won't come here. Besides, I'm dead." 
" Dead ! " 

" Thought to be so, which is as well — better for me, perhaps. 
If they don't see your ship, or your boat, you're safe enough." 

" I don't like to risk it," said Blunt, " It's Life if we're 
caught, remember." 

" It's Death if I'm caught ! " returned the other, with a 
sinister laugh. " But there's no danger if you are cautious. 
No one looks for rats in a terrier's kennel, and there's not a 
station along the beach from here to Cape Pillar. Take your 
vessel out of eye-shot of the Neck, bring the boat up Descent 
Beach, and the thing's done." 



THE WORK OF THE SEA. 353 

" Well," says Blunt, " I'll try it." 

"You wouldn't like to stop here till morning ? It is rather 
lonely," suggested Rex, absolutely making a jest of his late 
terrors. 

Will Staples laughed. " You're a bold boy ! " said he. 
"We'll come at daybreak." 

" Have you got the clothes as I directed ? " 

" Yes." 

"Then good-night. I'll put my fire out, in case somebody 
else might see it, who wouldn't be as kind as you are." 

" Good-night." 

" Not a word for the Madam," said Staples, when they 
reached the vessel. 

" Not a word, the ungrateful dog/' assented Blunt ; adding, 
with some heat, " That's the way with women. They'll go 
through fire and water for a man that doesn't care a snap of his 
fingers for 'em ; but for any poor fellow who risks his neck- to 
pleasure 'em they've nothing but sneers ! I wish I'd never 
meddled in the business." 

"There are no fools like old fools," thought Will Staples, 
looking back through the darkness at the place where the fire 
had been, but he did not utter his thoughts aloud. 

At eight o'clock the next morning the Pretty Mary stood out 
to sea with every stitch of canvas set, alow and aloft. The 
skipper's fishing had come to an end. He had caught a ship- 
wrecked seaman, who had been brought on board at daylight, 
and was then at breakfast in the cabin. The crew winked at 
each other when the haggard mariner, attired in garments that 
seemed remarkably well preserved, mounted the side. But 
they, none of them, were in a position to controvert the skipper's 
statement. 

" Where are we bound for ? " asked John Rex, smoking 
Staples' pipe in lingering puffs of delight. "' I'm entirely in 
your hands, my worthy Blunt." 

" My orders are to cruise about the whaling grounds until 
I meet my consort," returned Blunt, sullenly, " and put you 
aboard her. She'll take you back to Sydney. I'm victualled 
for a twelvemonth's trip." 

" Right ! " cried Rex, clapping his preserver on the back. 
" I'm bound to get to Sydney somehow ; but, as the Philistines 

23 



354 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

are abroad, I may as well tarry in Jericho till my beard be 
grown. Don't stare at my scriptural quotation, Mr. Staples," 
he added, inspirited by creature comforts, and secure amid his 
purchased friends. " I assure you that I've had the very best 
religious instruction. Indeed, it is chiefly owing to my worthy 
spiritual pastor and master that I am enabled to smoke this 
very villainous tobacco of yours at the present moment !" 



CHAPTER XXVII. 

THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH. 

IT was not until they had scrambled up the beach to safety 
that the absconders became fully aware of the loss of 
another of their companions. As they stood on the break 
of the beach, wringing the water from their clothes, Gabbett's 
small eye, counting their number, missed the stroke oar. 

" Where's Cox ? " 

" The fool fell overboard," said Jemmy Vetch, shortly. " He 
never had as much sense in that skull of his as would keep it 
sound on his shoulders." 

Gabbett scowled. " That's three of us gone," he said, in the 
tones of a man suffering some personal injury. 

They summed up their means of defence against attack. 
Sanders and Greenhill had knives. Gabbett still retained the 
axe in his belt. Vetch had dropped his musket at the Neck ; 
and Bodenham and Cornelius were unarmed. 

" Let's have a look at the tucker," said Vetch. 

There was but one bag of provisions. It contained a piece 
of salt pork, two loaves, and some uncooked potatoes. Signal 
Hill station was not rich in edibles. 

" That ain't much," said the Crow, with rueful face. " Is it, 
Gabbett ? " 

" It must do, any way," returned the giant carelessly. 

The inspection over, the six proceeded up the shore, and 
■encamped under the lee of a rock. Bodenham was for lighting 
a fire, but Vetch, who by tacit consent had been chosen leader 
of the expedition, forbade it, saying that the light might betray 
them. " They'll think we're drowned, and won't pursue us," 



"THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH. 355 



lie said. So all that night the miserable wretches crouched 
tireless together. 

Morning breaks clear and bright, and— free for the first time 
in ten years— they comprehend that their terrible journey has 
begun. " Where are we to go ? — How arc we to live ? " asks 
Bodenham, scanning the barren bush that stretches to the 
barren sea. " Gabbett, you've been out before— how's it 
done ? " 

"We'll make the shepherds' huts, and live on their tucker till 
we get a change o' clothes," said Gabbett, evading the main 
cpiestion. "We can follow the coast line." 

" Steady, lads," said prudent Vetch ; " we must sneak round 
yon sandhills, and so creep into the scrub. If they've a good 
glass at the Neck, they can see us." 

"It does seem close," said Bodenham ; " I could pitch a 
stone on to the guard-house. Good-bye, you Bloody Spot ! : ' he 
adds, with sudden rage, shaking his fist vindictively at the 
Penitentiary ; " I don't want to see you no more till the Day o' 
Judgment." 

Vetch divides the provisions, and they travel all that day 
until dark night. The scrub is prickly and dense. Their 
clothes are torn, their hands and feet bleeding. Already they 
feel out-wearied. No one pursuing, they light a fire, and sleep. 
The second day they come to a sandy spit that runs out into 
the sea, and find that they have got too far to the eastward, and 
must follow the shore line to East Bay Neck. Back through 
the scrub they drag their heavy feet. That night they eat the 
last crumb of the loaf. The third day at high noon — after some 
toilsome walking they reach a big hill, now called Collins' 
Mount, and see the upper link of the earring, the isthmus of 
East Bay Neck at their feet. A few rocks are on their right 
hand, and blue in the lovely distance lies hated Maria Island. 
" We must keep well to the eastward," said Grccnhill, " or wc 
shall fall in with the settlers and get taken ." So, passing the 
isthmus, they strike into the bush along the shore, and tighten- 
ing their belts over their gnawing bellies, camp under some low- 
lying hills. 

The fourth day is notable for the indisposition of Bodenham, 
who IS a bail walker, and falling behind, delays the parly by 
frequent coocys. Gabbett threatens him with a worse fate than 



35*5 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

sore feet if he lingers. Luckily, that evening Greenhill espies a 
hut, but not trusting to the friendship of the occupant, they wait 
until he quits it in the morning, and then send Vetch to forage. 
Vetch, secretly congratulating himself on having by his counsel 
prevented violence, returns bending under half a bag of flour. 
"You'd better carry the flour," said he to Gabbett, " and give 
me the axe." Gabbett eyes him for a while, as if struck by his 
puny form, but finally gives the axe to his mate Sanders. That 
day they creep along cautiously between the sea and the hills, 
camping at a creek. Vetch, after much search, finds a handful 
of berries, and adds them to the main stock. Half of this 
handful is eaten at once, the other half reserved for " to- 
morrow." The next day they come to an arm of the sea, and 
as they struggle northward, Maria Island disappears, and with 
it all danger from telescopes. That evening they reach the 
camping ground by twos and threes ; and each wonders — 
between the paroxysms of hunger — if his face is as haggard, 
and his eyes as bloodshot, as those of his neighbour. 

On the seventh day, Bodenham says his feet are so bad he 
can't walk, and Greenhill, with a greedy look at the berries, bids 
him stay behind. Being in a very weak condition he takes his 
companion at his word, and drops off about noon the next day. 
Gabbett, discovering this defection, however, goes back, and in 
an hour or so appears, driving the wretched creature before him 
with blows, as a sheep is driven to the shambles. Greenhill 
remonstrates at another mouth being thus forced upon the party, 
but the giant silences him with a hideous glance. Jemmy Vetch 
remembers that Greenhill accompanied Gabbett once before, 
and feels uncomfortable. He gives hint of his suspicions to 
Sanders, but Sanders only laughs. It is horribly evident that 
there is an understanding among the three. 

The ninth sun of their freedom, rising upon sandy and barren 
hillocks, bristling thick with cruel scrub, sees the six famine- 
stricken wretches cursing their God, and yet afraid to die. All 
around is the fruitless, shadeless, shelterless bush. Above, the 
pitiless heaven. In the distance, the remorseless sea. Some- 
thing terrible must happen. That grey wilderness, arched by 
grey heaven stooping to grey sea, is a fitting keeper of hideous 
secrets. Vetch suggests that Oyster Bay cannot be far to the 
eastward — the line of ocean is deceitfully close — and though 
such a proceeding will take them out of their course, they 



THE VALLEY OF THE SHADOW OF DEATH. 357 



resolve to make for it. After hobbling five miles, they seem no 
nearer than before, and, nigh dead with fatigue and starvation, 
sink despairingly upon the ground. Vetch thinks Gabbett's t 
eyes have a wolfish glare in them, and instinctively draws off 
from him. Said Greenhill, in the course of a dismal conver- 
sation, " I am so weak that I could eat a piece of a man." 

On the tenth day Bodenham refuses to stir, and the others, 
being scarce able to drag along their limbs, sit on the ground 
about him. Greenhill, eyeing the prostrate man, said, slowly, 
" I have seen the same done before, boys, and it tasted like 
pork." 

Vetch, hearing his savage comrade give utterance to a 
thought all had secretly cherished, speaks out, crying, " It 
would be murder to do it, and then, perhaps we couldn't eat 
it." 

" Oh," said Gabbett, with a grin, " I'll warrant you that, but 
you must all have a hand in it:" 

Gabbett, Sanders, and Greenhill then go aside, and presently 
Sanders, coming to the Crow, said, " He consented to act as 
fiogger. He deserves it." 

" So did Gabbett, for that matter," shudders Vetch. 
" Ay, but Bodenham's feet are sore," said Sanders, " and 'tis 
a pity to leave him." 

Having no fire, they made a little breakwind ; and Vetch, 
half-dozing behind this at about three in the morning, hears 
some one cry out " Christ ! " and awakes, sweating ice. 

No one but Gabbett and Greenhill would eat that night. 
That savage pair, however, make a fire, fling ghastly fragments 
on the embers, and eat the broil before it is right warm. In 
the morning the frightful carcase is divided. 

That day's march takes place in silence, and at the mid-day 
halt Cornelius volunteers to carry the billy, affecting great 
restoration from the food. Vetch gives it to him, and in half 
an hour afterwards Cornelius is missing. Gabbett and Green- 
hill pursue him in vain, and return with curses. " He'll die 
like a dog," said Greenhill, " alone in the bush." Jemmy Vetch, 
with his intellect acute as ever, thinks that Cornelius prefers 
such a death to the one in store for him, but says nothing. 

The twelfth morning dawns wet and misty, but Vetch, seeing 
the provision running short, strives to be cheerful, telling stories 
of men who have escaped greater peril. Vetch feels with 



358 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



dismay that he is the weakest of the party, but has some sort 
of ludicro-horrible consolation in remembering that he is also 
the leanest. They come to a creek that afternoon, and look, 
until nightfall, in vain for a crossing-place. The next day 
Gabbett and Vetch swim across, and Vetch directs Gabbett to 
cut a long sapling, which, being stretched across the water, is 
seized by Greenhill and the Moocher, who are dragged over. 

" What would you do without me ? " said the Crow with a 
ghastly grin. 

They cannot kindle a fire, for Greenhill, who carries the 
tinder, has allowed it to get wet. The giant swings his axe in 
savage anger at enforced cold, and Vetch takes an opportunity 
to remark privately to him, what a big man Greenhill is. 

On the fourteenth day they can scarcely crawl, and their 
limbs pain them. Greenhill, who is the weakest, sees Gabbett 
and the Moocher go aside to consult, and crawling to the Crow, 
whimpers : " For God's sake, Jemmy, don't let 'em murder 
me ! " 

" I can't help you," says Vetch, looking about in terror. 
" Think of poor Tom Bodenham." 

"But he was no murderer. If they kill me, I shall go to 
hell with Tom's blood on my soul." 

He writhes on the ground in sickening terror, and Gabbett 
arriving, bids Vetch bring wood for the fire. Vetch, going, 
sees Greenhill clinging to wolfish Gabbett's knees, and Sanders 
calls after him, " You will hear it presently, Jem." 

The nervous Crow puts his hands to his ears, but is conscious, 
nevertheless, of a dull crash and a groan. When he comes 
back, Gabbett is putting on the dead man's shoes, which are 
better than his own. 

" We'll stop here a day or so and rest," said he, " now we've 
got provisions." 

Two more days pass, and the three, eyeing each other sus- 
piciously, resume their march. The third day — the sixteenth 
of their awful journey — such portions of the carcase as they 
have with them prove unfit to eat. They look into each other's 
famine-sharpened faces, and wonder " who next ?" 

" We must all die together," said Sanders quickly, " before 
anything else must happen." 

Vetch marks the terror concealed in the words, and when 



THE VALLEY OF TLLE SHADOW OF DEATH. 359 



the dreaded giant is out of earshot, says, " Fo„ God's sakej 
let's go on alone, Alick. You see what sort of a cove that 
Gabbett is — he'd kill his father before he'd fast one day." 

They made for the bush, but the giant turned and strode 
towards them. Vetch skipped nimbly on one side, but Gabbett 
struck the Moodier on the forehead with the axe. "Help! 
Jem, help ! " cried the victim, cut, but not fatally, and in the 
strength of his desperation tore the axe from the -monster who 
bore it, and flung it to Vetch. " Keep it, Jemmy," he cried, 
" let's have no more murder done ! " 

They fare again through the horrible bush until nightfall, 
when Vetch, in a strange voice, called the giant to him. 

" He must die." 

" Either you or he," laughs Gabbett. " Give me the axe." 

" No, no," said the Crow, his thin, malignant face distorted 
by a horrible resolution, "/'ll keep . the axe. Stand back! 
You shall hold him, and I'll do the job." 

Sanders, seeing them approach, knew his end was come, 
and submitted, crying, " Give me half an hour to pray for 
myself." They consent, and the bewildered wretch knelt down 
and folded his hands like a child. His big, stupid face worked 
with emotion. His great cracked lips moved in desperate 
agony. He wagged his head from side to side, in pitiful con- 
fusion of his brutalized senses. " I can't think o' the words, 
Jem!" 

"Pah," snarled the cripple, swinging the axe, "we can't 
starve here all night." 

Four days had passed, and the two survivors of this awful 
journey sat watching each other. The gaunt giant, his eyes 
gleaming with hate and hunger, sat sentinel over the dwarf. 
The dwarf, chuckling at his superior sagacity, clutched the 
fatal axe. For two days they had not spoken to each other. 
For two days each had promised himself that on the next his 
companion must sleep — and die. Vetch comprehended the 
devilish scheme of the monster who had entrapped five of his 
fellow-beings to aid him by their deaths to his own safety, and 
held aloof. Gabbett watched to snatch the weapon from his 
companion, and make the odds even for once and for ever. 
In the day-time they travelled on, seeking each a pretext to 
creep behind the other. In the night-time when they feigned 
slumber, each stealthily raising a head caught the wakeful 



360 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

glance of his companion. Vetch felt his strength deserting 
him, and his brain overpowered by fatigue. Surely the giant, 
muttering, gesticulating, and slavering at the mouth, was on the 
road to madness. Would the monster find opportunity to rush 
at him, and, braving the blood-stained axe, kill him by main 
force ? or would he sleep, and be himself a victim ? Unhappy 
Vetch ! It is the terrible privilege of insanity to be sleepless. 

On the fifth day, Vetch, creeping behind a tree, takes off his 
belt, and makes a noose. He will hang himself. He gets one 
end of the belt over a bough, and then his cowardice bids him 
pause. Gabbett approaches : he tries to evade him, and steal 
away into the bush. In vain. The insatiable giant, ravenous 
with famine, and sustained by madness, is not to be shaken 
off. Vetch tries to run, but his legs bend under him. The 
axe that has tried to drink so much blood feels heavy as lead. 
He will fling it away. No — he dares not. Night falls again. 
He must rest, or go mad. His limbs are powerless. His 
eyelids are glued together. He sleeps as he stands. This 
horrible thing must be a dream. He is at Port Arthur, or 
will wake on his pallet in the penny lodging-house he slept at 
when a boy. Is that the Deputy come to wake him to the 
torment of living ? It is not time — surely not time yet. He 
sleeps — and the giant, grinning with ferocious joy, approaches 
on clumsy tiptoe and seizes the coveted axe. 

On the north-east coast of Van Diemen's Land is a place 
called St. Helen's Point, and a certain skipper, being in want 
of fresh water, landing there with a boat's crew, found on the 
banks of the creek a gaunt and blood-stained man, clad in 
tattered yellow, who carried on his back an axe and a bundle. 
When the sailors came within sight of him, he made signs to 
them to approach, and opening his bundle with much ceremony 
offered them some of its contents. Filled with horror at what 
the maniac displayed, they seized and bound him. At Hobart 
Town he was recognized as the only survivor of the nine 
desperadoes who had escaped from Colonel Arthur's " Natural 
Penitentiary." 

END OF BOOK THE THIRD, 




BOOK IV. 



CHAPTER IV. 



EXTRACTED FROM THE DIARY OF THE REV. JAMES NORTH. 

Bathurst, February nth, 1846. 

IN turning over the pages of my journal, to note the good 
fortune that has just happened to me, I am struck by the 
utter desolation of my life for the last seven years. 

Can it be possible that I, James North, the college-hero, 
the poet, the prizeman, the heaven knows what else, have been 
content to live on at this dreary spot — an animal, eating and 
drinking, for to-morrow I die ? Yet it has been so. My world, 
that world of which I once dreamt so much, has been— here. 
My fame — which was to reach the ends of the earth — has pene- 
trated to the neighbouring stations. I am considered a "good 
preacher" by my sheep-feeding friends. It is kind of them. 

Yet, on the eve of leaving it, I confess that this solitary life 
has not been without its charms. I have had my books and my 
thoughts— though at times the latter were but grim companions. 
I have striven with my familiar sin, and have not always been 
worsted. Melancholy reflection. " Not always ! " "But yet" 
is as a jailer to bring forth some monstrous malefactor. I 
vowed, however, that I would not cheat myself in this diary of 
mine, and I will not. No evasions, no glossings over of my 
own sins. This journal is my confessor, and I bare my heart 
to it. 

It is curious the pleasure I feel in setting down here in black 



362 HIS NA TURAL LIFE. 

and white these agonies and secret cravings of which I dare not 
speak. It is for the same reason, I suppose, that murderers 
make confession to dogs and cats, that people with something 
" on their mind " are given to thinking aloud, that the queen of 
Midas must needs whisper to the sedges the secret of her hus- 
band's infirmity. Outwardly I am a man of God, pious and grave 
and softly spoken. Inwardly — what? The mean, cowardly, 
weak sinner that this book knows me. . . . Imp ! I 
could tear you in pieces ! . . . One of these days I will. 
In the mean time, I will keep you under lock and key, and you 
shall hug my secrets close. No, old friend, with whom I have 
communed so long, forgive me, forgive me. You are to me 
instead of wife or priest. I tell to your cold blue pages — how 
much was it I bought you for in Paramatta, rascal ? — these 
stories, longings, remorses, which I would fain tell to human ear 
could I find a human being as discreet as thou. It has been 
said that a man dare not write all his thoughts and deeds ; the 
words would blister the paper. Yet your sheets are smooth 
enough, you fat rogue ! Our neighbours of Rome know human 
nature. A man must confess. One reads of wretches who have 
carried secrets in their bosoms for years, and blurted them forth 
at last. I, shut up here without companionship, without sym- 
pathy, without letters, cannot lock up my soul, and feed on my 
own thoughts. They will out, and so I whisper them to thee. 

What art thou, thou tremendous power 
Who dost inhabit us without our leave, 
And art, within ourselves, another self, 
A master self that loves to domineer ? 

What ? Conscience ? That is a word to frighten children. 
The conscience of each man is of his own making. My friend 
the shark-toothed cannibal whom Staples brought in his whaler 
to Sydney would have found his conscience reproach him sorely 
did he refuse to partake of the feasts made sacred by the 
customs of his ancestors. A spark of divinity ? The divinity 
that, according to received doctrine, sits apart, enthroned amid 
sweet music, and leaves poor humanity to earn its condemnation 
as it may ? I'll have none of that — though I preach it. One 
must soothe the vulgar senses of the people. Priesthood has its 
" pious frauds." The Master spoke in parables. Wit ? The wit 
that sees how ill-balanced are our actions and our aspirations ? 



DIARY OF THE REV. JAMES NORTH. 363 



The devilish wit born of our own brain, that sneers at us for 
our own failings? Perhaps madness? More likely, for there 
are few men who are not mad one hour of the waking twelve. 
If differing from the judgment of the majority of mankind in 
regard to familiar things be madness, I suppose / am mad — or 
too wise. The speculation draws near to hair-splitting. James 
North, recall your early recklessness, your ruin, and your redemp- 
tion ; bring your mind back to earth. Circumstances have made 
you what you are, and will shape your destiny for you without 
your interference. That's comfortably settled ! 

Now supposing— to take another canter on my night-mare— 
that man is the slave of circumstance (a doctrine which I am 
inclined to believe, though unwilling to confess); what circum- 
stance can have brought about the sudden awakening of the 
powers that be to James North's fitness for duty? 

" Hobart Town, Jan. 12/h. 
" DEAR North,— I have much pleasure in informing you that you can 
be appointed Protestant chaplain at Norfolk Island, if you like. It seems 
that they did not get on well with the last man, and when my advice was 
asked, I at once recommended you for the office. The pay is small, but 
you have a house and so on. It is certainly better than Bathurst, and 
indeed is considered rather a prize in the clerical lottery. 

' ' There is to be an investigation into affairs down there. Poor old Pratt — 
who went down, as you know, at the earnest solicitation of the Govern- 
ment — seems to have become absurdly lenient with the prisoners, and it is 
reported that the island is in a frightful state. Sir Eardley is looking out 
for some disciplinarian to take the place in hand. 

" In the mean time, the chaplaincy is vacant, and I thought of you." 

I must consider this seeming good fortune further. 

February 19th.— I accept. There is work to be done among 
those unhappy men that maybe my purgation. The authorities 
shall hear me yet — though inquiry was stifled at Port Arthur. 
By the way, a Pharaoh has arisen who knows not Joseph. It is 
evident that the meddlesome parson, who complained of men 
being flogged to death, is forgotten, as the men are ! How 
many ghosts must haunt the dismal loneliness of that prison 
shore ! Poor Burgess is gone the way of all flesh. I wonder if 
his spirit revisits the scenes of its violences ? I have written 
" poor " Burgess. 

It is strange how we pity a man gone out of this life. Enmity 
is extinguished when one can but remember injuries. If a man 



364 HIS NA TURAL LIFE. 



had injured me, the fact of his living at all would be sufficient 
grounds for me to hate him ; if I had injured him, I should hate 
him still more. Is that the reason I hate myself at times — my 
greatest enemy, and one whom I have injured beyond forgive- 
ness? There are offences against one's own nature that are not 
to be forgiven. Isn't it Tacitus who says "the hatred of those 
most nearly related is most inveterate " ? But — I am taking 
flight again. 

February 27th, 11.30 p.m. — Nine Creeks Station. I like to 
be accurate in names, dates, etc. Accuracy is a virtue. To 
exercise it, then. Station ninety miles from Bathurst. I should 
say about 4,000 head of cattle. Luxury without refinement. 
Plenty to eat, drink, and read. Hostess' name — Carr. She is a 
well-preserved creature, about thirty-four years of age, and a 
clever woman — not in a poetical sense, but in the widest worldly 
acceptation of the term. At the same time, I should be sorry, 
to be her husband. Women have no business with a brain like 
hers — that is, if they wish to be women and not sexual monsters. 
Mrs. Carr is not a lady, though she might have been one. I 
don't think she is a good woman either. It is possible, indeed, 
that she has known the factory before now. There is a mystery 
about her, for I was informed that she was a Mrs. Purfoy, the 
widow of a whaling captain, and had married one of her assigned 
servants, who had deserted her five years ago, as soon as he 
obtained his freedom. A word or two at dinner set me thinking. 
She had received some English papers, and, accounting for her 
pre-occupied manner, grimly said, " I think I have news of my 
husband." I should not like to be in Carr's shoes if she has 
news of him ! I don't think she would suffer indignity calmly. 
After all, what business is it of mine ? I was beguiled into 
taking more wine at dinner than I needed. Confessor, do you 
hear me ? But I will not allow myself to be carried away. You 
grin, you fat familiar ! So may I, but I shall be eaten with 
remorse to-morrow. 

March 3rd. — A place called Jerrilang, where I have a head 
and heartache. " One that hath let go himself from the hold 
and stay of reason, and lies open to the mercy of all temptations." 

March 20th. — Sydney. At Captain Frere's. — Seventeen days 
since I have opened you, beloved and detested companion of 



DIARY OF THE REV. JAMES NORTH. 365 

mine. I have more than half a mind to never open you again ! 
To read you is to recall to myself all I would most willingly 
forget ; yet not to read you would be to forget all that which I 
should for my sins remember. 

The last week has made a new man of me. I am no longer 
morose, despairing, and bitter, but genial, and on good terms 
with fortune. It is strange that accident should have induced 
me to stay a week under the same roof with that vision of 
brightness which has haunted me so long. A meeting in the 
street, an introduction, an invitation — the thing is done. 

The circumstances which form our fortunes are certainly 
curious things. I had thought never again to meet the bright 
young face to which I felt so strange an attraction — and lo ! 
here it is smiling on me daily. Captain Frere should be a 
happy man. Yet there is a skeleton is this house also. That 
young wife, by nature so lovable and so mirthful, ought not ta 
have the sadness on her face that twice to-day has clouded it. 
He seems a passionate and boorish creature, this wonderful 
convict disciplinarian. His convicts — poor devils — are doubtless 
disciplined enough. Charming little Sylvia, with your quaint 
wit and weird beauty, he is not good enough for you — and yet it 
was a love match. 

March 21st. — I have read family prayers every night since I 
have been here — my black coat and white tie gave me the 
natural pre-eminence in such matters — and I feel guilty every 
time I read. I wonder what the little lady of the devotional 
eyes would say if she knew that I am a miserable hypocrite, 
preaching that which I do not practise, exhorting others to 
believe those marvels which I do not believe ? I am a coward 
not to throw off the saintly mask, and appear as a Freethinker. 
Yet, am I a coward ? I urge upon myself that it is for the glory 
of Cod I hold my peace. The scandal of a priest turned infidel 
would do more harm than the reign of reason would do good. 
Imagine this trustful woman for instance — she would suffer 
anguish at the thoughts of such a sin, though another were the 
sinner. " If any one offend one of these little ones it were 
better for him that a millstone be hanged about his neck and 
that he be cast into the sea." Yet truth is truth, and should be 
spoken— should it not, malignant monitor, who remindest me 
how often I fail to speak it? Surely among all his army of 



366 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

black-coats our worthy bishop must have some men like me, 
who cannot bring their reason to believe in things contrary to the 
experience of mankind and the laws of nature and physics. 

March 22nd. — This unromantic Captain Frere has had some 
romantic incidents in his life, and he is fond of dilating upon 
them. It seems that in early life he expected to have been left 
a large fortune by an uncle who had quarrelled with his heir. 
But the uncle dies on the day fixed for the altering of the will, 
the son disappears, and is thought to be drowned. The widow, 
however, steadfastly refuses to believe in any report of the young 
man's death, and having a life-interest in the property, holds it 
against all comers. My poor host in consequence conies out 
here on his pay, and, three years ago, just as he is hoping that 
the death of his aunt may give him opportunity to enforce a 
claim as next of kin to some portion of the property, the long- 
lost son returns, is recognized by his mother and the trustees, 
and installed in due heirship ! The other romantic story is 
connected with Frere's marriage. He told me after dinner to- 
night, how his wife had been wrecked when a child, and how 
he had saved her life, and defended her from the rude hands of 
an escaped convict — one of the monsters that our monstrous 
system breeds. " That was how we fell in love," said he, tossing 
off his wine complacently. 

"An auspicious opportunity," said I. To which he nodded. 
He is not overburdened with brains, I fancy. 

Let me see if I can set down some account of this lovely place 
and its people. 

A long low white house, surrounded by a blooming garden. 
Wide windows opening on a lawn. The ever glorious, ever 
changing sea beneath. It is evening. I am talking with 
Mrs. Frere, of theories of social reform, of picture galleries, 
of sunsets, and new books. There comes a sound of wheels 
on the gravel. It is the magistrate returned from his convict- 
discipline. We hear him come briskly up the steps, but we 
go on talking. ( I fancy there was a time when the lady 
would have run to meet him.) He enters, coldly kisses his 
wife, and disturbs at once the current of our thoughts. "It 
has been hot to-day. What, still no letter from Head- quarters, 
Mr. North ! I saw Mrs. Golightly in town, Sylvia, and she 
asked for you. There is to be a ball at Government House. 



DIARY OF THE REV. JAMES NORTH. 367 

We must go." Then he departs, and is heard in the distance 
indistinctly cursing because the water is not hot enough, or 
because Dawkins, his convict servant, has not brushed his 
trousers sufficiently. We resume our chat, but he returns 
all hungry, and bluff, and whisker-brushed. " Dinner. Ha-ha ! 
I'm ready for it. North, take Mrs. Frere." By-and-by it is, 
" North, some sherry ? Sylvia, the soup is spoilt again. Did 
you go out to-day? No?" His eyebrows contract here, and 
I know he says inwardly, "Reading some trashy novel, I 
suppose." However, he grins, and obligingly relates how the 
police have captured Cockatoo Bill, the noted bushranger. 

After dinner the disciplinarian and I converse — of dogs and 
horses, gamecocks, convicts, and moving accidents by flood 
and field. I remember old college feats, and strive to keep 
pace with him in the relation of athletics. What hypocrites 
we are ! — for all the time I am longing to get to the drawing- 
room, and finish my criticism of the new poet, Mr. Tennyson, 
to Mrs. Frere. Frere does not read Tennyson — nor anybody 
else. Adjourned to the drawing-room, we chat — Mrs. Frere 
and I — until supper. (He eats supper.) She is a charming 
companion, and when I talk my best — I can talk, you must 
admit, O Familiar — her face lightens up with an interest I 
rarely see upon it at other times. I feel cooled and soothed 
by this companionship. The quiet refinement of this house, 
after bullocks and Bathurst, is like the shadow of a great 
rock in a weary land. 

Mrs. Frere is about five-and-twenty. She is rather beneath 
the middle height, witk a slight, girlish figure. This girlish 
appearance is enhanced by the fact that she has bright fair 
hair and blue eyes. Upon conversation with her, however, 
one sees that her face has lost much of the delicate plumpness 
which it probably owned in youth. She has had one child, 
born only to die. Her cheeks are thin, and her eyes have 
a tinge of sadness, which speak of physical pain or mental 
grief. This thinness of face makes the eyes appear larger 
and the brow broader than they really are. Her hands are 
white and painfully thin. They must have been plump and 
pretty once. Her lips are red with perpetual fever. 

Captain Frere seems to have absorbed all his wife's vitality. 
(Who quotes the story of Lucius Claudius Hermippus, who 
lived to a great age by being constantly breathed on by young 



368 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

girls ? I suppose Burton — who quotes everything.) In pro- 
portion as she has lost her vigour and youth, he has gained 
strength and heartiness. Though he is at least forty years of 
age, he does not look more than thirty. His face is ruddy, 
his eyes bright, his voice firm and ringing. He must be a 
man of considerable strength and — I should say — of more than 
ordinary animal courage and animal appetite. There is not 
a nerve in his body which does not twang like a piano wire. 
In appearance, he is tall, broad, and bluff, with red whiskers 
and reddish hair slightly touched with grey. His manner is 
loud, coarse, and imperious ; his talk of dogs, horses, cocks, 
and convicts. What a strangely-mated pair ! 

March 30th. — A letter from Van Diemen's Land. " There 
is a row in the pantry," said Frere, with his accustomed slang. 
It seems that the Comptroller-General of Convicts has ap- 
pointed a Mr. Pounce to go down and make a report on 
the state of Norfolk Island. I am to go down with him, 
and shall receive instructions to that effect from the Comp- 
troller-General. I have informed Frere of this, and he has 
written to Pounce to come and stay on his way down. There 
has been nothing but convict discipline talked since. Frere 
is great upon this point, and wearies me with his explanations 
of convict tricks and wickedness. He is celebrated for his 
knowledge of such matters. Detestable wisdom ! His servants 
hate him, but they obey him without a murmur. I have ob- 
served that habitual criminals— like all savage beasts — cower 
before the man who has once mastered them. I should not 
be surprised if the Van Diemen's Land Government selected 
Frere as their "disciplinarian." I hope they won't, and yet I 
hope they will. 

April 4th. — Nothing worth recording until to-day. Eating, 
drinking, and sleeping. Despite my forty-seven years, I begin 
to feel almost like the James North who fought the bargee and 
took the gold medal. What a drink water is ! The fans Ban- 
dusioe splendidior vitreo was better than all the Massic, Master 
Horace ! I doubt if your celebrated liquor, bottled when Man- 
lius was consul, could compare with it. 

But to my notable facts. I have found out to-night two things 
which surprise me. One is that the convict who attempted the 






DIARY OF THE REV. JAMES NORTH. 369 



life of Mrs. Frere is none other than the unhappy man whom my 
fatal weakness caused to be flogged at Port Arthur, and whose 
face comes before me to reproach me even now. The other that 
Mrs. Carr is an old acquaintance of Frere's. The latter piece 
of information I obtained in a curious way. One night, after 
Mrs. Frere had retired, we were talking of clever women. I 
broached my theory, that strong intellect in women went far to 
destroy their womanly nature. 

" Desire in man," said I, " should be Volition in women : 
Reason, Intuition ; Reverence, Devotion ; Passion, Love. The 
woman should strike a lower key-note, but a sharper sound. 
Man has vigour of reason, woman quickness of feeling. The 
woman who possesses masculine force of intellect is abnormal.'' 
He did not half comprehend me, I could see, but he agreed with 
the broad view of the case. " I only knew one woman who was 
really ' strong-minded,' as they call it," he said, " and she was a 
regular bad one." 

" It docs not follow that she should be bad" said I. 

"This one was, though — stock, lock, and barrel. But as 
sharp as a needle, sir, and as immovable as a rock. A fine 
woman, too." 

I saw by the expression of the mart's face that he owned ugly 
memories, and pressed him further. " She's up country some- 
where," he said. " Married her assigned servant, I was told, a 
fellow named Carr. I haven't seen her for years, and don't 
know what she may be like now, but in the days when I knew 
her she was just what you describe." (Let it be noted that I 
had described nothing.) " She came out in the ship with me 
as maid to my wife's mother." 

It was on the tip of my tongue to say that I had met her, but 
I don't know what induced me to be silent. There are passages 
in the lives of men of Captain Frere's complexion which don't 
bear descanting on. I expect there has been in this case, for lie 
changed the subject abruptly, as his wife came in. Is it possible 
that these two creatures — the notable disciplinarian and the wife 
of the assigned servant — could have been more than friends in 
youth? Quite possible. He is the sort of man for gross 
amours. (A pretty way I am abusing my host !) And the 
supple woman with the dark eyes would have been just the 
creature to enthral him. Perhaps some such story as this may 
account in part for Mrs. Frere's sad looks. Why do I speculate 

24 



370 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

on such things ? I seem to do violence to myself and to insult 
her hy writing such suspicions. If I was a Flagellant now, I 
would don hair-shirt and up flail. " For this sort cometh not 
out but by prayer and fasting.'' 

April 7th. — Mr. Pounce has arrived — full of the importance of 
his mission. He walks with the air of a minister of state on the 
eve of a vacant garter, hoping, wondering, fearing, and dignified 
even in his dubitancy. I am as flippant as a school-girl con- 
cerning this fatuous official, and yet — Heaven knows — I feel 
deeply enough the importance of the task he has before him. 
One relieves one's brain by these whirlings of one's mental 
limbs. I remember that a prisoner at Hobart Town, twice con- 
demned and twice reprieved, jumped and shouted with frenzied 
vehemence when he heard his sentence of death finally pro- 
nounced. He told me, if he had not so shouted, he believed 
he would have gone mad. 

April ioth. — We had a state dinner last night. The conver- 
sation was about nothing in the world but convicts. I never 
saw Mrs. Frere to less advantage. Silent, distraite, and sad. 
She told me after dinner that she disliked the very name of 
" convict " from early associations. " I have lived among them 
all my life," she said, " but that does not make it the better for 
me. I have terrible fancies at times, Mr. North, that seem 
half-memories. I dread to be brought in contact with prisoners 
again. I am sure that some evil awaits me at their hands." 

I laughed, of course, but it would not do. She holds to her 
own opinion, and looks at me with horror in her eyes. This 
terror in her face is perplexing. 

" You are nervous," I said. "You want rest." 

"I am nervous," she replied, with that candour of voice and 
manner I have before remarked in her, " and I have presenti- 
ments of evil." 

We sat silent for a while, and then she suddenly turned her 
large eyes on me, and said calmly, " Mr. North, what death 
shall I die ?" The question was an echo of my own thoughts — I 
have some foolish (?) fancies as to physiognomy — and it made 
me start. What death, indeed ? What sort of death would one 
meet with widely-opened eyes, parted lips, and brows bent as 
though to rally fast-flying courage ? Not a peaceful death surely. 



DIARY OF THE REV. JAMES NORTH. 371 

I brought my black coat to my aid. " My dear lady, you must 
not think of such things. Death is but a sleep, you know. 
Why anticipate a nightmare ?" 

She sighed, slowly awaking as though from some momentary 
trance. Checking herself on the verge of tears, she rallied, 
turned the conversation, and finding an excuse for going to 
the piano, dashed into a waltz. This unnatural gaiety ended, 
I fancy, in an hysterical fit. I heard her husband afterwards 
recommending sal volatile. He is the sort of man who would 
recommend sal volatile to the Pythoness if she consulted him. 

April 26th. — All has been arranged, and we start to-morrow. 
Mr. Pounce is in a condition of painful dignity. He seems 
afraid to move lest motion should thaw his official ice. Having 
found out that I am the " chaplain," he has refrained from 
familiarity. My self-love is wounded, but my patience relieved. 
Que?y : Would not the majority of mankind rather be bored by 
people in authority than not noticed by them ? James North 
declines to answer for his part. 

I have made my farewells to my friends, and on looking back 
on the pleasant hours I have spent, felt saddened. It is not 
likely that I shall have many such pleasant hours. I feel like a 
vagabond who, having been allowed to sit by a cheerful fireside 
for a while, is turned out into the wet and windy streets, and 
finds them colder than ever. What were the lines I wrote in 
her album ? 

" As some poor tavern-haunter drenched in wine 
With staggering footsteps through the streets returning; 

— Seeing through blinding rain a beacon shine 

From household lamp in happy window burning,— 

" Pauses an instant at the reddened pane 
To gaze on that sweet scene of love and duty, 

Then turns into the wild wet night again, 

Lest his sad presence mar its homely beauty." 

Yes, those were the lines. With more of truth in them than 
she expected ; and yet what business have I sentimentalizing. 
My socius think "what a puling fool this North is!" 

So, that's over! Now for Norfolk Island and my purgation. 



372 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

CHAPTER II. 

THE LOST HEIR. 

T^HE lost son of Sir Richard Devine had returned to Eng- 
land, and made claim to his name and fortune. In other 
words, John Rex had successfully carried out the scheme 
by which he had usurped the rights of his old convict-comrade. 

Smoking his cigar in his bachelor lodgings, or pausing in a 
calculation concerning a race, John Rex often wondered at the 
strange ease with which he had carried out so monstrous and 
seemingly difficult an imposture. After he was landed in Sydney 
by the vessel which Sarah Purfoy had sent to save him, he found 
himself a slave to a bondage scarcely less galling than that from 
which he had escaped— the bondage of enforced companionship 
with an unloved woman. The opportune death of one of her 
assigned servants enabled Sarah Purfoy to instal the escaped 
convict in his room. In the strange state of society which 
prevailed of necessity in New South Wales at that period, it was 
not unusual for assigned servants to marry among the free 
settlers, and when it was heard that Mrs. Purfoy, the widow of 
a whaling captain, had married John Carr, her storekeeper, 
transported for embezzlement, and with two years of his 
sentence yet to run, no one expressed surprise. Indeed, when, 
the year after, John Carr blossomed as an " expiree," master of a 
fine wife and a fine fortune, there were many about him who would 
have made his existence in Australia pleasant enough. But 
John Rex had no notion of remaining longer than he could help, 
and ceaselessly sought means of escape from this second prison- 
house. For a long time his search was unsuccessful. Much as 
she loved the scoundrel, Sarah Purfoy did not scruple to tell him 
that she had bought him, and regarded him as her property. 
He knew that if he made any attempt to escape from his 
marriage-bonds, the woman who had risked so much to save 
him would not hesitate to deliver him over to the authorities, 
and state how the opportune death of John Carr had enabled 
her to give name and employment to John Rex, the absconder. 
He had thought once that the fact of her being his wife would 
prevent her from giving evidence against him, and that he could 



THE LOST HEIR. 373 



thus defy her. But she reminded him that a word to Blunt 
would be all sufficient. 

" I know you don't care for me now, John," she said, with 
grim complacency ; " but your life is in my hands, and if you 
desert me I will bring you to the gallows." 

In vain, in his secret eagerness to be rid of her, he raged and 
chafed. He was tied hand and foot. She held his money, and her 
shrewd wit had more than doubled it. She was all-powerful, 
and he could but wait until her death or some lucky accident 
should rid him of her, and leave him free to follow out the 
scheme he had matured. " Once rid of her," he thought, in his 
solitary rides over the station of which he was the nominal 
owner, " the rest is easy. I shall return to England with a 
plausible story of shipwreck, and shall doubtless be received 
with open arms by the dear mother from whom I have been so 
long parted. Richard Devine shall have his own again." 

To be rid of her was not so easy. Twice he tried to escape 
from his thraldom, and was twice brought back. " I have 
bought you, John," his partner had laughed, "and you don't 
get away from me. Surely you can be content with these com- 
forts. You were content with less once. I am not so ugly and 
repulsive, am I ? " 

" I am home-sick," John Carr retorted. " Let us go to 
England, Sarah." 

She tapped her strong white fingers sharply on the table. 
" Go to England ? No, no. That is what you would like to do. 
You would be master there. You would take my money, and 
leave me to starve. I know you, Jack. We stop here, dear. 
Here, where I can hand you over to the first trooper as an 
escaped convict if you are not kind to me." 

" She-devil ! " 

"Oh, I don't mind your abuse. Abuse me if you like, Jack. 
Beat me if you will, but don't leave me, or it will be worse for 
you." 

"You are a strange woman!" he cried, in sudden petulant 
admiration. 

" To love such a villain ? I don't know that. I love you be- 
cause you are a villain. A better man would be wearisome to 
such as I am." 

" I wish to Heaven I'd never left Port Arthur. Better there 
than this dog's life." 



374 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

" Go back, then. You have only to say the word ! " 

And so they would wrangle, she glorying in her power over 
the man who had so long triumphed over her, and he consoling 
himself with the hope that the day was not far distant which 
should bring him at once freedom and fortune. One day the 
chance came to him. His wife was ill, and the ungrateful scoun- 
drel stole five hundred pounds, and taking two horses reached 
Sydney, and obtained passage in a vessel bound for Rio. 

Having escaped thraldom, John Rex proceeded to play for 
the great stake of his life with the utmost caution. He went to 
the Continent, and lived for weeks together in the towns where 
Richard Devine might possibly have resided, familiarizing him- 
self with streets, making the acquaintance of old inhabitants, 
drawing into his own hands all loose ends of information which 
could help to knit the meshes of his net the closer. Such loose 
ends were not numerous ; the prodigal had been too poor, too 
insignificant, to leave strong memories behind him. Yet Rex 
knew well by what strange accidents the deceit of an assumed 
identity is often penetrated. Some old comrade or companion 
of the lost heir might suddenly appear with keen questions as to 
trifles which could cut his flimsy web to shreds, as easily as the 
sword of Saladin divided the floating silk. He could not afford 
to ignore the most insignificant circumstances. With consum- 
mate skill, piece by piece he built up the story which was to 
deceive the poor mother, and to make him possessor of one of 
the largest private fortunes in England. 

This was the tale he hit upon. He had been saved from the 
burning Hydaspes by a vessel bound for Rio. Ignorant of the 
death of Sir Richard, and prompted by the pride which was 
known to be a leading feature of his character, he had deter- 
mined not to return, until fortune should have bestowed upon 
him wealth at least equal to the inheritance from which he had 
been ousted. In Spanish America he had striven to accumulate 
that wealth in vain. As vequero, traveller, speculator, sailor, he 
had toiled for fourteen years, and had failed. Worn out and peni- 
tent he had returned home to find a corner of English earth in 
which to lay his weary bones. The tale was plausible enough, 
and in the telling of it he was armed at all points. There was little 
fear that the navigator of the captured Osprey, the man who had 
lived in Chili and "cut out" cattle on the Carrum Plains, would 
prove lacking in knowledge of riding, seamanship, or Spanish 



THE LOST HEIR. 375 



customs. Moreover, he had determined upon a course of action 
which showed his knowledge of human nature. 

The will under which Richard Devine inherited was dated in 
1807, and had been made when the testator was in the first 
hopeful glow of paternity. By its terms Lady Devine was to 
receive a life interest of three thousand a year in her husband's 
property — which was placed in the hands of two trustees, — until 
her eldest son died or attained the age of twenty-five years. 
When'either of these events should occur, the property was to 
be realized, Lady Devine receiving a sum of a hundred thousand 
pounds, which, invested in Consols for her benefit, would, ac- 
cording to Sir Richard's prudent calculation, exactly compensate 
for her loss of interest, the remainder going absolutely to the 
son, if living, to his children or next of kin if dead. The trust- 
tees appointed were Lady Devine's father, Colonel Wotton 
Wade, and Mr. Silas Quaid, of the firm of Purkiss and Quaid, 
Thavies Inn, Sir Richard's solicitors. Colonel Wade, before his 
death, had appointed, with Quaid's consent, his own son, Mr. 
Francis Wade, to act in his stead. When Mr. Quaid died, the 
firm of Purkiss and Quaid (represented in the Quaid branch of 
it by a smart London-bred nephew) declined further respon- 
sibility ; and, with the consent of Lady Devine, Francis Wade 
continued alone in his trust. Sir Richard's sister and her hus- 
band, Anthony Frere, of Bristol, were long ago dead, and, as we 
know, their representative, Maurice Frere, content at last in the 
lot that fortune had sent him, had given up all thought of 
meddling with his uncle's business. John Rex, therefore, in 
the person of the returned Richard, had but two persons to 
satisfy, his putative uncle, Mr. Francis Wade, and his putative 
mother, Lady Devine. 

This he found to be the easiest task possible. Francis Wade 
was an invalid virtuoso, who detested business, and whose 
ambition was to be known as a man of taste. The possessor 
of a small independent income, he had resided at North End 
ever since his father's death, and had made the place a mini- 
ature Strawberry Hill. When, at his sister's urgent wish, he 
assumed the sole responsibility of the estate, he put all the 
floating capital into 3 per cents., and was content to see 
the interest accumulate. Lady Devine had never recovered 
the shock of the circumstances attending Sir Richard's death 
and, clinging to the belief in her son's existence, regarded 



376 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

herself as the mere guardian of his interests, to be displaced at 
any moment by his sudden return. The retired pair lived thus 
together, and spent in charity and bric-a-brac about a fourth of 
their mutual income. By both of them the return of the wan- 
derer was hailed with delight. To Lady Devine it meant the 
realization of a lifelong hope, become part of her nature. To 
Francis Wade it meant relief from a responsibility which his 
simplicity always secretly loathed, the responsibility of looking 
after another person's money. 

" I shall not think of interfering with the arrangements which 
you have made, my dear uncle," said Mr. John Rex, on the 
first night of his reception. " It would be most ungrateful of 
me to do so. My wants are very few, and can easily be sup- 
plied. I will see your lawyers some day, and settle it." 

" See them at once, Richard, see them at once. I am no 
man of business, you know, but I think you will find all right. 

Richard, however, put off the visit from day to day. He de- 
sired to have as little to do with lawyers as possible. He had 
resolved upon his course of action. He would get money from 
his mother for immediate needs, and when that mother died, he 
would assert his rights. " My rough life has unfitted me for 
drawing-rooms, dear mother," he said. " Do not let there be a 
display about my return. Give me a corner to smoke my pipe, 
and I am happy." Lady Devine, with a loving tender pity, for 
which John Rex could not altogether account, consented, and 
" Mr. Richard " soon came to be regarded as a martyr to cir- 
cumstances, a man conscious of his own imperfections, and one 
whose imperfections were therefore to be lightly dwelt upon. 
So the returned prodigal had his own suite of rooms, his own 
servants, his own bank account, drank, smoked, and was merry. 

For five or six months he thought himself in Paradise. Then 
he began to find his life insufferably weary. The burden of 
hypocrisy is very heavy to bear, and Rex was compelled per- 
petually to bear it. His mother demanded all his time. She 
hung upon his lips ; she made him repeat fifty times the story 
of his wanderings. She was never tired of kissing him, of 
weeping over him, of thanking him for the " sacrifice " he had 
made for her. 

" We promised never to speak of it more, Richard,'" the poor 
lady said one day, " but if my lifelong love can make atonement 
tor the wrong I have done you '" 



THE LOST HEIR. 377 



" Hush, dearest mother," said John Rex, who did not in the 
least comprehend what it was all about. " Let us say no 
more." 

Lady Devine wept quietly for a while, and then went away, 
leaving the man who pretended to be her son much bewildered 
and a little frightened. There was a secret which he had not 
fathomed between Lady Devine and her son. The mother did 
not again refer to it, and gaining courage as the days went on, 
Rex grew bold enough to forget his fears. 

In the first stages of his deception, he had been timid and 
cautious. Then the soothing influence of comfort, respect, and 
security came upon him, and almost refined him. He began to 
feel as he had felt when Mr. Lionel Crofton was alive . The 
sensation of being ministered to by a loving woman, who kissed 
him night and morning, calling him " son," — of being regarded 
with admiration by rustics, with envy by respectable folk — of 
being deferred to in all things — was novel and pleasing. They 
were so good to him that he felt at times inclined to confess all, 
and leave his case in the hands of the folk he had injured. Yet 
— he thought — such a course would be absurd. It would result 
in no benefit to any one, simply in misery to himself. The true 
Richard Devine was buried fathoms deep in the greedy ocean 
of convict-discipline, and the waves of innumerable punish- 
ments washed over him. John Rex flattered himself that he had 
usurped the name of one who was in fact no living man, and 
that, unless one should rise from the dead, Richard Devine could 
nuver return to accuse him. So flattering himself, he gradually 
became bolder, and by slow degrees suffered his true nature 
to appear. He was violent to the servants, cruel to dogs and 
horses, often wantonly coarse in speech, and brutally regardless 
of the feelings of others. Governed, like most women, solely by 
her feelings, Lady Devine had at first been prodigal of her affec- 
tion to the man she believed to be her injured son. But his rash 
acts of selfishness, his habits of grossness and self-indulgence, 
gradually disgusted her. For some time she — poor woman — 
fought against this feeling, endeavouring to overcome her in- 
stincts of distaste, and arguing with herself that to permit a 
detestation of her unfortunate son to arise in her heart was 
almost criminal; but she was at length forced to succumb. 

For the first year Mr. Richard conducted himself with great 
propiicty, but as his circle of acquaintance and his confidence 



378 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

in himself increased, he now and then forgot the part he was 
playing. One day Mr. Richard went to pass the day with a 
sporting friend, only too proud to see at his table so wealthy 
and wonderful a man. Mr. Richard drank a good deal more 
than was good for him, and came home in a condition of 
disgusting drunkenness. I say disgusting, because some folk 
have the art of getting drunk after a humorous fashion, that 
robs intoxication of half its grossness. For John Rex to be 
drunk was to be himself — coarse and cruel. Francis Wade was 
away, and Lady Devine had retired for the night, when the dog- 
cart brought home "Mr. Richard." The virtuous butler-porter, 
who opened the door, received a blow in the chest and a demand 
for " Brandy ! " The groom was cursed, and ordered to instant 
oblivion. Mr. Richard stumbled into the dining-room — veiled 
in dim light as a dining-room which was " sitting up " for its 
master ought to be — and ordered " more candles ! " The candles 
were brought, after some delay, and Mr. Richard amused himself 
by spilling their meltings upon the carpet. " Let's have 'lumi- 
nashon ! " he cried ; and climbing with muddy boots upon the 
costly chairs, scraping with his feet the polished table, attempted 
to fix the wax in the silver sconces, with which the antiquarian 
tastes of Mr. Francis Wade had adorned the room. 

" You'll break the table, sir," said the servant. 

" Damn the table ! " said Rex. " Buy 'nother table. What's 
table t'you ? " 

" Oh, certainly, sir," replied the man. 

" Oh, c'ert'nly ! Why c'ert'nly ? What do you know about 
it?" 

" Oh, certainly not, sir," replied the man. 

" If I had — stockwhip here — I make you — hie — skip ! Wkar's 
brandy ? " 

" Here, Mr. Richard." 

" Have some ! Good brandy ! Send for servantsh and have 
dance. D' you dance, Tomkins ? " 

" No, Mr. Richard." 

"Then you shall dance now, Tomkins. You'll dance upon 
nothing one day, Tomkins ! Here ! Halloo ! Mary ! Susan ! 
Janet ! William ! Hey ! Halloo ! " And he began to shout and 
blaspheme. 

" Don't you think it's time for bed, Mr. Richard ? * one of the 
men ventured to suggest. 



THE LOST HEIR. 379 



" No ! " roared the ex-convict, emphatically, " I don't / I've 
gone to bed at daylight far too long. We'll have 'luminashon ! 
I'm master here. Master everything. Richard 'Vine's my 
name. Isn't it, Tomkins, you villain ?" 

" Oh-h-h ! Ye-yes, Mr. Richard." 

" Course it is, and make you know it, too ! I'm no painter- 
picture, crockery chap. I'm genclman ! Genelman seen the 
world ! Knows what what. There ain't much I ain't fly to. 
Wait till the old woman's dead, Tomkins, and you shall see ! " 
More swearing, and awful threats of what the inebriate would do 
when he was in possession. " Bring up some brandy ! " Crash 
goes the bottle in the fire-place. " Light up the droring-rooms ; 
we'll have dance ! I'm drunk ! what's that ? If you'd gone 
through what I have, you'd be glad to be drunk. I look a 
fool " — this to his image in another glass. " I ain't though, or I 
wouldn't be here. Curse you, you grinning idiot " — crash goes 
his fist through the mirror — ■" don't grin at me. Play up there ! 
Where's old woman ! Fetch her out and let's dance ! " 

" Lady Devine has gone to bed, Mr. Richard," cried Tomkins 
aghast, attempting to bar the passage to the upper regions. 

" Then let's have her out o' bed," cried John Rex, plunging to 
the door. 

Tomkins, attempting to restrain him, is instantly hurled into 
a cabinet of rare china, and the drunken brute essays the stairs. 
The other servants seize him. He curses and fights like a demon. 
Doors bang open, lights gleam, maids hover, horrified, asking if 
it's " fire ?" and begging to be " put out." The whole house is 
in an uproar ; in the midst of which Lady Devine appears, and 
looks clown upon the scene. Rex catches sight of her, and 
bursts into blasphemy. She withdraws, strangely terrified ; 
and the animal, torn, bloody, and blasphemous, is at last got 
into his own apartments, the groom, whose face had been 
seriously damaged in the encounter, bestowing a hearty kick 
on the prostrate carcase at parting. 

The next morning Lady Devine declined to see her son, 
though he sent a special apology to her. 

" I am afraid I was a little overcome by wine last night," said 
he to Tomkins. 

" Well, you was, sir," said Tomkins. 

"A very little wine makes me quite ill, Tomkins. Did I do 
anything very violent?" 



3So HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

" You was rather obstropolous, Mr. Richard." 

" Here's a sovereign for you, Tomkins. Did I say any- 
thing ? " 

" You cussed a good deal, Mr. Richard. Most gents do when 
they've bin — hum— dining out, Mr. Richard." 

"What a fool I am," thought John Rex, as he dressed. "I 
shall spoil everything if I don't take care." He was right. He 
was going the right way to spoil everything. However, for this 
bout he made amends— money soothed the servants' hall, and 
apologies and time won Lady Devine's forgiveness. 

"I cannot yet conform to English habits, my dear mother," 
said Rex, " and feel at times out of place in your quiet home. I 
think that — if you can spare me a little money — I should like to 
travel." 

Lady Devine — with a sense of relief for which she blamed 
herself — assented, and, supplied with letters of credit, John Rex 
went to Paris. 

Fairly started in the world of dissipation and excess, he began 
to grow reckless. When a young man, he had been singularly 
free from the vice of drunkenness ; turning his sobriety — as he 
did all his virtues — to vicious account, but he had learnt to drink 
deep in the loneliness of the bush. Master of a large sum of 
money, he had intended to spend it as he would have spent it in 
his younger days. He had forgotten that since his death and 
burial the world had not grown younger. It was possible that 
Mr. Lionel Crofton might have discovered some of the old set of 
fools and knaves with whom he had once mixed. Many of them 
were alive and flourishing. Mr. Lemoine, for instance, was re- 
spectably married in his native island of Jersey, and had already 
threatened to disinherit a nephew who showed a tendency to 
dissipation. 

But Mr. Lemoine would not care to recognize Mr. Lionel 
Crofton, the gambler and rake, in his proper person, and it was 
not expedient that his acquaintance should be made in the per- 
son of Richard Devine, lest by some unlucky chance he should 
recognize the cheat. 

Thus poor Lionel Crofton was compelled to lie still in his 
grave, and Mr. Richard Devine, trusting to a big beard and 
more burly figure, to keep his secret, was compelled to begin his 
friendship with Mr. Lionel's whilom friends all over again. In 
Paris and London there were plenty of people ready to become 



THE LOST HEIR. 3S1 



hail-fellow-well-met with any gentleman possessing money. 
Mr. Richard Devine's history was whispered in many a boudoir 
and club-room. The history, however, was not always told in 
the same way. It was generally known that Lady Devine had a 
son, who, being supposed to be dead, had suddenly returned, to 
the confusion of his family. But the manner of his return was 
told in many ways. 

In the first place, Mr. Francis Wade, well-known though he 
was, did not move in that brilliant circle which had lately re- 
ceived his nephew. There are in England many men of fortune 
as large as that left by the old ship-builder, who are positively 
unknown in that little world which is supposed to contain all 
the men worth knowing. Francis Wade was a man of mark in 
his own coterie. Among artists, bric-a-brac sellers, antiquarians 
and men of letters, he was known as a patron and man of taste. 
His bankers and his lawyers knew him to be of independent 
fortune, but as he neither mixed in politics, " went into society," 
betted, or speculated in merchandise, there were several large 
sections of the community who had never heard his name. 
Many respectable money-lenders would have required " further 
information" before they would discount his bills ; and " club- 
men " in general — save, perhaps, those ancient quidnuncs who 
know everybody, from Adam downwards — had but little acquaint- 
ance with him. The advent of Mr. Richard Devine — a coarse 
person of unlimited means — had therefore chief influence upon 
that sinister circle of male and female rogues who form the 
"half-world.'' They began to inquire concerning his antece- 
dents, and, failing satisfactory information, to invent lies con- 
cerning him. It was generally believed that he was a black 
sheep, a man whose family kept him out of the way, but who 
was, in a pecuniary sense, "good" for a considerable sum. 

Thus taken upon trust, Mr. Richard Devine mixed in the 
very best of bad society, and had no lack of agreeable friends to 
help him to spend money. So admirably did he spend it, that 
Francis Wade became at last alarmed at the frequent drafts, 
and urged his nephew to bring his affairs to a final settlement. 
Richard Devine — in Paris, or Homburg, or London, or else- 
where — could never be got to attack business, and Mr. Francis 
Wade grew more and more anxious. The poor gentleman 
positively became ill through the anxiety consequent upon his 
nephew's dissipations. " I wish, my dear Richard, that you 



382 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

would let me know what to do," he wrote. " I wish, my dear 
uncle, that you would do what you think best," was his nephew's 
reply. 

" Will you let Purkiss and Ouaid look into the business ? " 
said the badgered Francis. 

" I hate lawyers," said Richard. " Do what you think right." 
Mr. Wade began to repent of his too easy taking of matters in 
the beginning. Not that he had a suspicion of Rex, but that 
he remembered that Dick was always a loose fish. The even 
current of the dilettante's life became disturbed. He grew pale 
and hollow eyed. His digestion was impaired. He ceased to 
take the interest in china which the importance of that article 
demanded. In a word, he grew despondent as to his fitness for 
his mission in life. Lady Ellinor saw a change in her brother. 
He became morose, peevish, excitable. She went privately to 
the family doctor, who shrugged his shoulders. " There is no 
danger," said he, " if he is kept quiet ; keep him quiet, and he 
will live for years, but his father died of heart disease, you 
know." Lady Ellinor, upon this, wrote a long letter to Mr. 
Richard, who was at Paris, repeated the doctor's opinions, and 
begged him to come over at once. Mr. Richard replied that 
some horse-racing matter of great importance occupied his at- 
tention, but that he would be at his rooms in Clarges Street (he 
had long ago established a town house) on the 14th, and would 
"go into matters." " I have lost a good deal of money lately, 
my dear mother," said Mr. Richard, "and the present will be a 
good opportunity to make a final settlement." The fact was, 
that John Rex, now three years in undisturbed possession, con- 
sidered that the moment had arrived for the execution of his 
grand coup — the carrying off at one swoop of the whole of the 
fortune he had gambled for. 



CHAPTER III. 

EXTRACTED FROM THE DIARY OF THE REV. JAMES NORTH. 

MAY 12th. — Landed to-day at Norfolk Island, and have 
been introduced to my new abode, situated some 
eleven hundred miles from Sydney. A solitary rock 
in the tropical ocean, the island seems, indeed, a fit place of 



DIARY OF THE REV. JAMES NORTH. 383 



banishment. It is about seven miles long and four broad. The 
most remarkable natural object is of course the Norfolk Island 
pine, which rears its stately head a hundred feet above the sur- 
rounding forest. The appearance of the place is very wild and 
beautiful, bringing to my mind the description of the romantic 
islands of the Pacific, which old geographers dwell upon so fondly. 
Lemon, lime, and guava trees abound, also oranges, grapes, figs, 
bananas, peaches, pomegranates, and pine-apples. The climate 
just now is hot and muggy. The approach to Kingstown — as 
the barracks and huts are called — is properly difficult. A long 
low reef — probably originally a portion of the barren rocks of 
Nepean and Philip Islands, which rise east and west of the 
settlement — fronts the bay and obstructs the entrance of vessels. 
We were landed in boats through an opening in this reef, and 
our vessel stands on and off within signalling distance. The 
surf washes almost against the walls of the military roadway 
that leads to the barracks. The social aspect of the place fills 
me with horror. There seems neither discipline nor order. On 
our way to the Commandant's house we passed a low dilapidated 
building, where the men were at work grinding maize, and at 
the sight of us they commenced whistling, hooting, and shouting, 
using the most disgusting language. Three warders were near, 
but no attempt was made to check this unseemly exhibition. 

May 14th. — I sit down to write with as much reluctance as 
though I were about to relate my experience of a journey through 
a sewer. 

First, to the prisoners' barracks, which stand on an area of 
about three acres, surrounded by a lofty wall. A road runs 
between this wall and the sea. The barracks are three storeys 
high, and hold seven hundred and ninety men (let me remark 
here that there are more than two thousand men on the island). 
There are twenty-two wards in this place. Each ward runs the 
depth of the building, viz., eighteen feet, and in consequence is 
simply a funnel for hot or cold air to blow through. When the 
ward is filled, the men's heads lie under the windows. The 
largest ward contains a hundred men, the smallest fifteen. 
They sleep in hammocks, slung close to each other as on 
board ship, in two lines, with a passage down the centre. There 
is a wardsman to each ward. He is selected by the prisoners, 
and is generally a man of the worst character. He is supposed 



384 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

to keep order, but of course he never attempts to do so ; indeed 
as he is locked up in the ward every night from six o'clock in 
the evening until sunrise, without light, it is possible that he 
might get maltreated did he make himself obnoxious. 

The barracks look upon the Barrack Square, which is filled 
with lounging prisoners. The windows of the hospital-ward 
also look upon Barrack Square, and the prisoners are in 
constant communication with the patients. The hospital is alow 
stone building, capable of containing about twenty men, and 
faces the beach. I placed my hands on the wall, and found it 
damp. An ulcerous prisoner said the dampness was owing to 
the heavy surf constantly rolling so close beneath the building. 
There are two gaols, the old and the new. The old gaol stands 
near the sea, close to the landing-place. Outside it, at the door, 
is the Gallows. I touched it as I passed in. This engine is 
the first thing which greets the eyes of a newly-arrived prisoner. 
The new gaol is barely completed, is of a pentagonal shape, 
and has eighteen radiating cells of a pattern approved by some 
wiseacre in England, who thinks that to prevent a man from 
seeing his fellow-men is not the way to drive him mad. In the 
old gaol are twenty-four prisoners, all heavily ironed, awaiting 
trial by the visiting Commission, from Hobart Town. Some of 
these poor ruffians, having committed their offences just after 
the last sitting of the Commission, have already been in gaol 
upwards of eleven months ! 

At six o'clock we saw the men mustered. I read prayers before 
the muster, and was surprised to find that some of the prisoners 
attended, while some strolled about the yard, whistling, singing, 
and joking. The muster is a farce. The prisoners are not 
mustered outside and then marched to their wards, but they 
rush into the barracks indiscriminately, and placed themselves 
dressed or undressed in their hammocks. A convict sub- 
overseer then calls out the names, and somebody replies. If an 
answer is returned to each name, all his considered right. The 
lights are taken away, and save for a few minutes at eight 
o'clock, when the good-conduct men are let in, the ruffians are 
left to their own devices until morning. Knowing what 1 know 
of the customs of convicts, my heart sickens when I in imagina- 
tion put myself in the place of a newly-transported man, plunged 
from six at night until daybreak into that foetid den of worse 
than wild beasts. 



DIARY OF THE REV. JAMES NORTH. 3S5 

May 15th. — There is a place enclosed between high walls 
adjoining the convict barracks, called the Lumber Yard. This 
is where the prisoners mess. It is roofed on two sides, and 
contains tables and benches. Six hundred men can mess here 
perhaps, but as seven hundred are always driven into it, it 
follows that the weakest men are compelled to sit on the ground. 
A more disorderly sight than this yard at meal times I never 
beheld. The cook-houses are adjoining it, and the men bake 
their meal-bread there. Outside the cook-house door the fire- 
wood is piled, and fires are made in all directions on the ground, 
round which sit the prisoners, frying their rations of fresh pork, 
baking their hominy cakes, chatting, and even smoking. 

The lumber yard is a sort of Alsatia, to which the hunted 
prisoner retires. I don't think the boldest constable on the 
island would venture into that place to pick out a man from the 
seven hundred. If he did go in I don't think he would come 
out again alive. 

1 6th May. — A sub-overseer, a man named Hankey, has been 
talking to me. He says that there are some forty of the oldest 
and worst prisoners who form what he calls the " Ring," and 
that the members of this Ring are bound by an oath to support 
each other, and to avenge the punishment of any of their number. 
In proof of his assertions he instanced two cases of English 
prisoners who had refused to join in some crime, and had in- 
formed the Commandant of the proceedings of the " Ring." 
They were found in the morning strangled in their hammocks. 
An inquiry was held, but not a man out of the ninety in the 
ward would speak a word. 

I dread the task that is before me. How can I attempt to 
preach piety and morality to these men? How can I attempt 
even to save the less villainous ? 

17th May. — Visited the wards to-day, and returned in despair. 
The condition of things is worse than I expected. It is not to 
be written. The newly-arrived English prisoners — and some of 
their histories are most touching — are insulted by the language 
and demeanour of the hardened miscreants who are the refuse 
of Port Arthur and Cockatoo Island. The vilest crimes are 
perpetrated as jests. There are creatures who openly defy autho- 
rity, whose language and conduct is sueh as was never befoie 

25 



386 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

seen or heard out of Bedlam. There are men who are known 
to have murdered their companions, and Avho boast of it. With 
these the English farm labourer, the riotous and ignorant 
mechanic, the victim of perjury or mistake, are indiscriminately 
herded. With them are mixed Chinamen from Hong-Kong, 
the aborigines of New Holland, West Indian blacks, Greeks, 
Caffres, and Malays, soldiers for desertion, idiots, madmen, pig- 
stcalers, and pickpockets. The dreadful place seems set apart 
for all that is hideous and vile in our common nature. In its 
recklessness, its insubordination, its filth, and its despair, it 
realizes to my mind the popular notion of hell. 

May 2 1 st. — Entered to-day officially upon my duties as Re- 
ligious Instructor at the settlement. 

An occurrence took place this morning which shows the 
dangerous condition of the " Ring." I accompanied Mr. 
Pounce to the Lumber Yard, and, on our entry, we observed 
a man in the crowd round the cook-house deliberately smoking. 
The Chief Constable of the Island — my old friend Troke, of Port 
Arthur — seeing that this exhibition attracted Pounce's notice, 
pointed out the man to an assistant. The assistant, Jacob 
Gimblett, advanced and desired the prisoner to surrender the 
pipe. The man plunged his hands into his pockets, and, with 
a gesture of the most profound contempt, walked away to that 
part of the mess-shed where the " Ring " congregate. 

"Take the scoundrel to gaol !" cried Troke. 

No one moved, but the man at the gate that leads through 
the carpenter's shop into barracks, called to us to come out, 
saying that the prisoners would never suffer the man to be 
taken. Pounce, however, with more determination than I gave 
him credit for, kept his ground, and insisted that so flagrant a 
breach of discipline should not be suffered to pass unnoticed. 
Thus urged, Mr. Troke pushed through the crowd, and made 
for the spot whither the man had withdrawn himself. 

The yard was buzzing like a disturbed hive, and I momentarily 
expected that a rush would be made upon us. In a few moments 
the prisoner appeared, attended by, rather than in the custody 
of, the Chief Constable of the island. He advanced to the un- 
lucky assistant constable, who was standing close to me, and 
asked, " What have you ordered me to gaol for ?" The man 
made some reply, advising him to go quietly, when the convict 



DIARY OF THE REV. JAMES NORTH. 387 



raised his fist, and deliberately felled the man to the ground. 
" You had better retire, gentlemen," said Troke. " I see them 
getting out their knives." 

We made for the gate, and the crowd closed in like a sea upon 
the two constables. I fully expected murder, but in a few mo- 
ments Troke and Gimblett appeared, borne along by a mass of 
men, dusty, but unharmed, and having the convict between 
them. He sulkily raised a hand as he passed me, either to 
rectify the position of his straw hat, or to offer a tardy apology. 
A more wanton, unprovoked, and flagrant outrage than that of 
which this man was guilty I never witnessed. It is customary 
for " the old dogs," as the experienced convicts are called, to 
use the most opprobrious language to their officers, and to this 
a deaf ear is usually turned, but I never before saw a man wan- 
tonly strike a constable. I fancy that the act was done out of 
bravado. Troke informed me that the man's name is Rufus 
Dawes, and that he is the leader of the Ring, and considered 
the worst man on the island ; that to secure him he (Troke) was 
obliged to use the language of expostulation ; and that, but for 
the presence of an officer accredited by his Excellency, he dared 
not have acted as he had done. 

This is the same man, then, whom I injured at Port Arthur. 
Seven years of " discipline " don't seem to have done him much 
good. His sentence is " life" — a lifetime in this place ! Troke 
says that he was the terror of Port Arthur, and that they sent 
him here when a "weeding" of the prisoners was made. He 
has been here four years. Poor wretch ! 

May 24th. — After prayers, I saw Dawes. He was confined 
in the Old Gaol, and seven others were in the cell with him. 
He came out at my request, and stood leaning against the door- 
post. He was much changed from the man I remember. 
Seven years ago he was a stalwart, upright, handsome man. He 
has become a beetle-browed, sullen, slouching ruffian. His 
hair is grey, though he cannot be more than forty years of age, 
and his frame has lost that just proportion of parts which once 
made him almost graceful. His face has also grown like other 
convict faces — how hideously alike they all are ! — and, save for 
his black eyes and a peculiar trick he has of compressing his 
lips, I should not have recognized him. How habitual sin and 
misery suffice to brutalize " the human face divine ! " I said but 



383 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

little, for the other prisoners were listening, eager, as it appeared 
to me, to witness my discomfiture. It is evident that Rufus 
Dawes had been accustomed to meet the ministrations of my 
predecessor with insolence. I spoke to him for a few minutes, 
only saying how foolish it was to rebel against an authority 
superior in strength to himself. He did not answer, and the 
only emotion he evinced during the interview was when I 
reminded him that we had met before. He shrugged one 
shoulder, as if in pain or anger, and seemed about to speak, 
but casting his eyes upon the group in the cell, relapsed into 
silence again. I must get speech with him alone. One can do 
nothing with a man if seven other devils worse than himself are 
locked up with him. 

I sent for Hankey, and asked him about cells. He says that 
the gaol is crowded to suffocation. " Solitary confinement" is 
a mere name. There are six men, each sentenced to solitary 
confinement, in a cell together. This cell is called the 
"nunnery." It is small, and the six men were naked to the 
waist when I entered, the perspiration pouring in streams off 
their naked bodies ! It is disgusting to write of such things. 

June 26th. — Pounce has departed in the Lady Franklin for 
Hobart Town, and it is rumoured that we are to have a new 
commandant. The Lady Franklin is commanded by an old 
man named Blunt, a protegd of Frere's, and a fellow to whom 
I have taken one of my inexplicable and unreasoning dislikes. 

Saw Rufus Dawes this morning. He continues sullen and 
morose. His papers are very bad. He is perpetually up 
for punishment. I am informed that he and a man named 
Eastwood, nicknamed Jacky Jacky, glory in being the leaders of 
the "Ring," and that they openly avow themselves weary of life. 
Can it be that the unmerited flogging which the poor creature 
got at Port Arthur has aided, with other sufferings, to bring him 
to this horrible state of mind ? It is quite possible. Oh, James 
North, remember your own crime, and pray Heaven to let you 
redeem one soul at least, to plead for your own at the Judgment 
Seat. 

June 30th. — I took a holiday this afternoon, and walked in 
the direction of Mount Pitt. The island lay at my feet like — 
as sings Mrs. Frere's favourite puet— " a summer isle of Eden 



DIARY OF THE REV. JAMES NORTH. 3S9 

lying in dark purple sphere of sea." Sophocles has the same 
idea in the Philoctetes, but I can't quote it. Note : I measured 
a pine twenty-three feet in circumference. I followed a little 
brook that runs from the hills, and winds through thick under- 
growths of creeper and blossom, until it reaches a lovely valley 
surrounded by lofty trees, whose branches, linked together by 
the luxurious grape-vine, form an arching bower of verdure. 
Here stands the ruin of an old hut, formerly inhabited by the 
early settlers ; lemons, figs, and guaves are thick ; while amid 
the shrub and cane a large convolvulus is intertwined, and stars 
the green with its purple and crimson flowers. 

I sat down here, and had a smoke. It seems that the 
former occupant of my rooms at the settlement read French ; 
for in searching for a book to bring with me— I never walk 
without a book — I found and pocketed a volume of Balzac. 
It proved to be a portion of the Vie Privde series, and I 
stumbled upon a story called La Fausse Maitresse. With 
calm belief in the Paris of his imagination — where Marcas 
was a politician, Nucingen a banker, Gobseck a money-lender, 
and Vautrin a candidate for some such place as this — Balzac 
introduces me to a Pole by name Paz, who, loving the wife 
of his friend, devotes himself to watch over her happiness 
and her husband's interest. The husband gambles and is 
profligate. Paz informs the wife that the leanness which 
hazard and debauchery have caused to the domestic ex- 
chequer is due to his extravagance, the husband having lent 
him money. She docs not believe, and Paz feigns an intrigue 
with a circus-rider in order to lull all suspicions. She says 
to her adored spouse, "Get rid of this extravagant friend! 
Away with him ! He is a profligate, a gambler ! A drunkard ! " 
Paz finally departs, and when he has gone, the lady finds out 
the poor Pole's worth. The story does not end satisfactorily. 
Balzac was too great a master of his art for that. In real life 
the curtain never falls on a comfortably-finished drama. The 
play goes on eternally. 

I have been thinking of the story all the evening. A man 
who loves his friend's wife, and devotes his energies to increase 
her happiness by concealing from her her husband's follies I 
Surely none but Balzac would have hit upon such a notion. 
"A man who loves his friend's wife." — Asmodeus, I write 
no more ! I have ceased to converse with thee for so long 



390 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

( that I blush to confess all that I have in my heart. — I will 
not confess it, so that shall suffice. 



CHAPTER IV. 

EXTRACTED FROM THE DIARY OF THE REV. JAMES NORTH. 

AUGUST 24th. — There has been but one entry in my 
journal since the 30th June, that which records the 
advent of our new Commandant, who, as I expected, 
is Captain Maurice Frere. 

So great have been the changes which have taken place, 
that I scarcely know how to record them. Captain Frere 
has realized my worst anticipations. He is brutal, vindictive, 
and domineering. His knowledge of prisons and prisoners 
gives him an advantage over Burgess, othewise he much re- 
sembles that murderous animal. He has but one thought— 
to keep the prisoners in subjection. So long as the island 
is quiet, he cares not whether the men live or die. " I was 
sent down here to keep order," said he to me, a few days 
after his arrival, "and by God, sir, I'll do it!" 

He has done it, I must admit ; but at a cost of a legacy 
of hatred to himself that he may some day regret to have 
earned. He has organized three parties of police. One patrols 
the fields, one is on guard at stores and public buildings, and 
the third is employed as a detective force. There are two 
hundred soldiers on the island. And the officer in charge, 
Captain McNab, has been induced by Frere to increase their 
duties in many ways. The cords of discipline are suddenly 
drawn tight. For the disorder which prevailed when I landed, 
Frere has substituted a sudden and excessive rigour. Any 
officer found giving the smallest piece of tobacco to a prisoner 
is liable to removal from the island. The tobacco which grows 
wild has been rooted up and destroyed lest the men should 
obtain a leaf of it. The privilege of having a pannikin of 
hot water when the gangs came in from field labour in the 
evening, has been withdrawn. The shepherds, hut-keepers, 
and all other prisoners, whether at the stations of Longridge 
or the Cascades (where the English convicts are stationed), 
are forbidden to keep a parrot or any other bird. The plaiting 



DIARY OF THE REV. JAMES NORTH. 391 

of straw hats during the prisoners' leisure hours is also pro- 
hibited. At the settlement where the " old hands " are located 
railed boundaries have been erected, beyond which no prisoner 
must pass unless to work. Two days ago Job Dodd, a negro, 
let his jacket fall over the boundary rails, crossed them to 
recover it, and was severely flogged. The floggings are hid- 
eously frequent. On flogging mornings I have seen the ground 
where the men stood at the triangles saturated with blood, as if 
a bucket of blood had been spilled on it, covering a space three 
feet in diameter, and running out in various directions, in little 
streams two or three feet long. At the same time, let me say, 
with that strict justice I force myself to mete out to those whom 
I dislike, that the island is in a condition of abject submission. 
There is not much chance of mutiny. The men go to their 
work without a murmur, and slink to their dormitories like 
whipped hounds to kennel. The gaols and solitary (!) cells are 
crowded with prisoners, and each day sees fresh sentences 
for fresh crimes. It is crime here to do anything but live. 

The method by which Captain Frere has brought about this 
repose of desolation is characteristic of him. He sets every man 
as a spy upon his neighbour, awes the more daring into obedi- 
ence by the display of a ruffianism more outrageous than their 
own, and raising the worst scoundrels in the place to office, 
compels them to find " cases " for punishment. Perfidy is 
rewarded. It has been made part of a convict-policeman's 
duty to search a fellow-prisoner anywhere and at any time. 
This searching is often conducted in a wantonly rough and 
disgusting manner ; and if resistance be offered, the man re- 
sisting can be knocked down by a blow from the searcher's 
bludgeon. Inquisitorial vigilance and indiscriminating harsh- 
ness prevail everywhere, and the lives of hundreds of prisoners 
are reduced to a continual agony of terror and self-loathing. 

" It is impossible, Captain Frere," said I one day, during the 
•initiation of this system, " to think that these villains whom you 
have made constables will do their duty." 

He replied, " They must do their duty. If they are indulgent 
to the prisoners, they know I shall flog 'cm. If they do what I 
tell 'em, they'll make themselves so hated that they'd have their 
own father up to the triangles to save themselves being sent 
back to the ranks." 

" You treat them then like slave-keepers of a wild beast den. 



392 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

They must flog the animals to avoid being flogged them- 
selves." 

" Ay," said he, with his coarse laugh, " and having once 
flogged 'em, they'd do anything rather than be put in the cage, 
don't ye see ! " 

It is horrible to think of this sort of logic being used by a man 
who has a wife, and friends and enemies. It is the logic that 
the Keeper of the Tormented would use, I should think. I am 
sick unto death of the place. It makes me an unbeliever in the 
social charities. It takes out of penal science anything it may 
possess of nobility or worth. It is cruel, debasing, inhuman. 

August 26th. — Saw Rufus Dawes again to-day. His usual 
bearing is ostentatiously rough and brutal. He has sunk to a 
depth of self-abasement in which he takes a delight in his de- 
gradation. This condition is one familiar to me. 

He is working in the chain-gang to which Hankey was made 
sub-overseer. Blind Mooney, an ophthalmic prisoner, who was 
removed from the gang to hospital, told me that there was a 
plot to murder Hankey, but that Dawes, to whom he had shown 
some kindness, had prevented it. I saw Hankey and told him 
of this, asking him if he had been aware of the plot. He said 
" No," falling into a great tremble. " Major Pratt promised me 
a removal," said he. " I expected it would come to this." I 
asked him why Dawes defended him ; and after some trouble 
he told me, exacting from me a promise that I would not ac- 
quaint the Commandannt. It seems that one morning last 
week Hankey had gone up to Captain Frere's house with a 
return from Troke, and coming back through the garden had 
plucked a flower. Dawes had asked him for this flower, offering 
two days' rations for it. Hankey, who is not a bad-hearted 
man, gave him the sprig. " There were tears in his eyes as he 
took it," said he. 

There must be some way to get at this man's heart, bad as he 
seems to be. 

August 28th. — Hankey was murdered yesterday. He applied 
to be removed from the gaol-gang, but Frere refused. " I 
never let my men 'funk,'" he said. "If they've threatened to 
murder you, I'll keep you there another month in spite of 'em. 

Some one who overheard this reported it to the gang and, 



DIARY OF THE REV. JAMES NORTH. 393 

they set upon the unfortunate gaoler yesterday, and beat his 
brains out with their shovels. Troke says that the wretch who 
was foremost cried, " There's for you ; and if your master don't 
take care, he'll get served the same one of these days ! " The 
gang were employed at building a reef in the sea, and were 
working up to their armpits in water. Hankey fell into the surf, 
and never moved after the first blow. I saw the gang, and 
Dawes said, — 

" It was Frere's fault ; he should have let the man go ! " 

" I am surprised you did not interfere," said I. 

" I did all I could," was the man's answer. " What's a life 
more or less here." 

This occurrence has spread consternation among the over- 
seers, and they have addressed a "round robin" to the Com- 
mandant, praying to be relieved from their positions. 

The way Frere has dealt with this petition is characteristic of 
him, and fills me at once with admiration and disgust. He came 
down with it in his hand to the gaol-gang, walked into the yard, 
shut the gate, and said, " I've just got this from my overseers. 
They say they're afraid you'll murder them as you murdered 
Hankey. Now, if you want to murder, murder me. Here I am. 
Step out, one of you." All this, said in a tone of the most galling 
contempt, did not move them. I saw a dozen pair of eyes flash 
hatred, but the bull-dog courage of the man overawed them here, 
as, I am told, it had done in Sydney. It would have been easy 
to kill him then and there, and his death, I am told, is sworn 
among them ; but no one raised a finger. The only man who 
moved was Rufus Dawes, and he checked himself instantly. 
Frere, with a recklessness of which I did not think him capable, 
stepped up to this terror of the prison, and ran his hands lightly 
down his sides, as is the custom with constables when " search- 
ing " a man. Dawes— who is of a fierce temper — turned crimson 
at this bravado, and, I thought, would have struck him, but he 
did not. Frere then — still unarmed and alone — proceeded to 
the man, saying, " How are you, Dawes ? Do you think of bolt- 
ing again, Dawes? Have you made any more boats?" 

" You Devil ! " said the chained man, in a voice pregnant with 
such weight of unborn murder, that the gang winced. 

" You'll find me one," said Frere, with a laugh ; and, turning 
to me, continued, in the same jesting tone, " There's a penitent 
for you, Mr. North — try your hand on him." 



394 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

I was speechless at his audacity, and must have shown my 
disgust in my face, for he coloured slightly, and as we were 
leaving the yard, endeavoured to excuse himself, by saying that 
it was no use preaching to stones, and such doubly-dyed villains 
as this Dawes were past hope. " I know the ruffian of old," 
said he. "He came out in the ship from England with me, and 
tried to raise a mutiny on board. He was the man who nearly 
murdered my wife. He has never been out of irons — except 
then and when he escaped — for the last eighteen years ; and as 
he's three life sentences, he's like to die in 'em. 

A monstrous wretch and criminal, evidently, and yet I feel a 
strange sympathy with this outcast. 



CHAPTER V. 

MR. RICHARD DEVINE SURPRISED. 

I^HE town house of Mr. Richard Devine was in Clarges' 
Street. Not that the very modest mansion there situated 
was the only establishment of which Richard Devine 
was master. Mr. John Rex had expensive tastes. He neither 
shot nor hunted, so he had no capital invested in Scotch moors 
or Leicestershire hunting-boxes. But his stables were the 
wonder of London, he owned almost a racing village near Don- 
caster, kept a yacht at Cowes, and, in addition to a house in 
Paris, paid the rent of a villa at Brompton. He belonged to 
several clubs of the faster sort, and might have lived like a 
prince at any one of them had he been so minded ; but a 
constant and haunting fear of discovery— which three years of 
unquestioned ease and unbridled riot had not dispelled — led him 
to prefer the privacy of his own house, where he could choose 
his own society. The house in Clarges Street was decorated in 
conformity with the tastes of its owner. The pictures were 
pictures of horses, the books were records of races, or novels 
purporting to describe sporting life. Mr. Francis Wade, waiting, 
on the morning of the 20th April, 1846, for the coming of his 
nephew, sighed as he thought of the cultured quiet of Northend 
House. 

Mr. Richard appeared in his dressing-gown. Three years of 
good living and hard drinking had deprived his figure of its 



MR. RICHARD BE VINE SURPRISED. 395 

athletic beauty. He was past forty years of age, and the sudden 
cessation from severe bodily toil to which in his active life as a 
convict and squatter he had been accustomed, had increased 
Rex's natural proneness to fat, and instead of being portly he 
had become gross. His cheeks were inflamed with the frequent 
application of hot and rebellious liquors to his blood. His 
hands were swollen, and not so steady as of yore. His whiskers 
were streaked with unhealthy grey. His eyes, bright and black 
as ever, lurked in a thicket of crow's feet. He had become 
prematurely bald — a sure sign of mental or bodily excess. He 
spoke with assumed heartiness, in a boisterous tone of affected 
ease. 

" Ha, ha ! My dear uncle, sit down. Delighted to see you. 
Have you breakfasted ? — of course you have, /was up rather 
late last night. Quite sure you won't have anything. A 
glass of wine ? No — then sit down and tell me all the news 
of Hampstead." 

" Thank you, Richard," said the old gentleman, a little stiffly, 
"but I want some serious talk with you. What do you intend 
to do with the property ? This indecision worries me. Either 
relieve me of my trust, or be guided by my advice." 

" Well, the fact is," said Richard, with a very ugly look on his 
face, " the fact is — and you may as well know it at once — I am 
much pushed for money." 

" Pushed for money!" cried Mr. Wade, in horror. "Why, 
Purkiss said the property was worth twenty thousand a year." 

" So it might have been— five years ago — but my horse-racing, 
and betting, and other amusements, concerning which you need 
not too curiously inquire, have reduced its value considerably." 

He spoke recklessly and roughly. It was evident that success 
had but developed his ruffianism. His "dandyism" was only 
comparative. The impulse of poverty and scheming which led 
him to affect the "gentleman" having been removed, the natural 
brutality of his nature showed itself freely. Mr. Francis Wade 
took a pinch of snuff with a sharp motion of distaste. "I do 
not want to hear of your debaucheries," he said ; " our name 
has been sufficiently disgraced in my hearing." 

" What is got over the devil's back goes under his belly," 
replied Mr. Richard, coarsely. " My old father got his money 
by dirtier ways than these in which I spend it. As villainous an 
old scoundrel and skinflint as ever poisoned a seaman, I'll go bail.' 



396 HIS AATURAL LIFE. 



Mr. Francis rose. " You need not revile your father, Richard 
—he left you all." 

" Ay, but by pure accident. He didn't mean it. If he hadn't 
died in the nick of time, that unhung murderous villain, Maurice 
Frere, would have come in for it. By the way," he added, with 
a change of tone, " do you ever hear anything of Maurice?" 

" I have not heard for some years," said Mr. Wade. " He is 
something in the Convict Department at Sydney, I think." 

" Is he ?" said Mr. Richard, with a shiver. " Hope he'll stop 
there. Well, but about business. The fact is, that — that I am 
thinking of selling everything." 

" Selling everything!" 

"Yes. 'Pon my soul I am. The Hampstead place and all." 

"Sell Northend House!" cried poor Mr. Wade, in bewilder- 
ment. " Why, the carvings by Grinling Gibbons are the finest 
in England." 

" I can't help that," laughed Mr. Richard, ringing the bell 
"I want cash, and cash I must have. — Breakfast, Smithers. — 
I'm going to travel." 

Francis Wade was breathless with astonishment. Educated 
and reared as he had been, he would as soon have thought of 
proposing to sell St. Paul's Cathedral, as to sell the casket which 
held his treasures of art, — his coins, his coffee-cups, his pictures, 
and his " proofs before letters." 

"Surely, Richard, you are not in earnest?" he gasped. 

" I am, indeed." 

" But— but who will buy it ?" 

"Plenty of people. I shall cut it up into building allotments. 
Besides, they are talking of a suburban line, with a terminus at 
St. John's Wood, which will cut the garden in half. You are 
quite sure you've breakfasted ? Then pardon me." 

" Richard, you are jesting with me ! You will never let them 
do such a thing ! " 

" I'm thinking of a trip to America," said Mr. Richard, 
cracking an egg. " I am sick of Europe. After all, what 
is the good of a man like me pretending to belong to 'an 
old family,' with 'a seat' and all that humbug? Money is 
the thing now, my dear uncle. Hard cash ! That's the ticket 
for soup, you may depend." 

" Then what do you propose doing, sir ? " 

" To buy my mother's life interest as provided, realize upon 



MR. RICHARD DEVINE SURPRISED. 397 

the property, and travel," said Mr. Richard, helping himself to 
potted grouse. 

" You amaze me, Richard. You confound me. Of course 
you can do as you please. But so sudden a determination 
The old house — scattered — vases — coins — pictures — I really — 
Well, it is your property, of course, — and — and — I wish you a 
very good morning ! " 

" I mean to do as I please," soliloquized Rex, as he resumed 
his breakfast. " Let him sell his rubbish by auction, and go 
and live abroad, in Germany or Jerusalem if he likes, the 
farther the better for me. I'll sell off the property and make 
myself scarce. A trip to America will benefit my health." 

A knock at the door made him start. 

" Come in ! Curse it, how nervous I'm getting. What's 
that ? Letters ? Give them to me ; and why the devil don't 
you put the brandy on the table, Smithers ? " 

He drank some of the spirit greedily, and began to open his 
correspondence. 

" Cussed brute," said Mr. Smithers, outside the door. " He 
couldn't use wuss langwidge if he was a dook, dam 'im ! — 
Yessir," he added, suddenly, as a roar from his master recalled 
him. 

" When did this come ? " asked Mr. Richard, holding out a 
letter more than usually disfigured with stampings. 

" Lars night, sir. It's bin to 'Amstead, sir, and come down 
directed with the h'others." The angry glare of the black 
eyes induced him to add, " I 'ope there's nothink wrong, 
sir." 

" Nothing, you infernal ass and idiot," burst out Mr. Richard, 
white with rage, " except that I should have had this instantly. 
Can't you see it's marked urgent ? Can you read ? Can you 
spell? There, that will do. No lies. Get out ! " 

Left to himself again, Mr. Richard walked hurriedly up and 
down the chamber, wiped his forehead, drank a tumbler of 
brandy, and finally sat down and re-read the letter. It was 
short, but terribly to the purpose. 

" The George Hotel, Plymouth, 

ijth April, 1846. 
" My Dear Jack, — 

" I Ikivc found you out, you see. Never mind how just at present. I 
know all about your proceedings, and unless Mr. Richard Devine receives 



398 HIS NA TURAL LIFE. 

his wife with due propriety, he'll find himself in the custody of the police. 
Telegraph, dear, to Mrs. Richard Devine, at above address. 

' ' Yours as ever, Jack, 

" Sarah. 
" To Richard Devine, Esq., 

' ' Northend House, 

" Hampstead.'' 

The blow was unexpected and severe. It was hard, in 
the very high tide and flush of assured success, to be thus 
plucked back into the old bondage. Despite the affectionate 
tone of the letter, he knew the woman with whom he had 
to deal. For some furious minutes he sat motionless, gazing 
at the letter. He did not speak — men seldom do under such 
circumstances — but his thoughts ran in this fashion : " Here 
is this cursed woman again ! Just as I was congratulating 
myself on my freedom. How did she discover me ! Small 
use asking that. What shall I do ? I can do nothing. It 
is absurd to run away, for I shall be caught. Besides, I've 
no money. My account at Mastermann's is overdrawn two 
thousand pounds. If I bolt at all, I must bolt at once — 
within twenty-four hours. Rich as I am, I don't suppose 
I could raise more than five thousand pounds in that time. 
These things take a day or two, say forty-eight hours. In 
forty-eight hours I could raise twenty thousand pounds, but 
forty-eight hours is too long. Curse the woman ! 1 know 
her! How in the fiend's name did she discover me? It's 
a bad job. — However, she's not inclined to be gratuitously 
disagreeable. How lucky I never married again ! I had 
better make terms and trust to fortune. After all, she's been 
a good friend to me. — Poor Sally ! — I might have rotted on 
that infernal Eaglehawk Neck, if it hadn't been for her. She 
is not a bad sort. Handsome woman, too. I may make it 
up with her. I shall have to sell off and go away after all.— 
It might be worse. — I dare say the property's worth three 
hundred thousand pounds. Not bad for a start in America. 
And I may get rid of her yet. Yes. I must give in. — Oh, 
curse her \— [ringing the bell] Smithers ! " \Smithcrs appears^] 
" A telegraph form and a cab ! Stay. Pack me a dressing- 
bag, I shall have to go away for a day or so. [Sollo voce] — 
I'd better see her myself. — [Aloud']— Bring me a Bradshaw ! 
[Sotlo voce] — Damn the woman." 



IN WHICH THE CHAPLAIN IS TAKEN ILL. 399 



CHAPTER VI. 

IN WHICH THE CHAPLAIN IS TAKEN ILL. 

THOUGH the house of the Commandant of Norfolk Island 
was comfortable and well furnished, and though, of 
necessity, all that was most hideous in the " discipline" 
of the place was hidden, the loathing with which Sylvia had 
approached the last and most dreaded abiding place of the 
elaborate convict system, under which it had been her misfortune 
to live, had not decreased. The sights and sounds of pain and 
punishment surrounded her. She could not look out of her 
windows without a shudder. She dreaded each evening when 
her husband returned, lest he should blurt out some new atrocity. 
She feared to ask him in the morning whither he was going, lest 
he should thrill her with the announcement of some fresh 
punishment. 

" I wish, Maurice, we had never come here," said she, piteously, 
when he recounted to her the scene of the gaol-gang. " These 
unhappy men will do you some frightful injury one of these 
days." 

"Stuff!" said her husband. "They've not the courage 
I'd take the best man among them, and dare him to touch me." 

" I cannot think how you like to witness so much misery and 
villainy. It is horrible to me to think of." 

" Our tastes differ, my dear.— Jenkins ! Confound you ! 
Jenkins, I say." The convict-servant entered. " Where is the 
chargebook? I've told you always to have it ready for me. 
Why don't you do as you are told ? You idle, lazy scoundrel ! 
I suppose you were yarning in the cookhouse, or " 

" If you please, sir " 

" Don't answer me, sir. Give me the book." Taking it and 
running his finger down the leaves, he commented on the list of 
offences to which he would be called upon in the morning to 
mete out judgment. 

" Meer-a-seek, having a pipe — the rascally Hindoo scoundrel ! 
— Benjamin Pellett, having fat in his possession. Miles Byrne, 
not walking fast enough — We must enliven Mr. Byrne. 'Thomas 
Twist, having a pipe and striking a light. W. Barnes, not in 
place at muster j says he was ' washing himself — I'll wash him! 



4oo HIS NATURAL LI IK. 

John Richards, missing muster and insolence. John Gateby, 
insolence and insubordination. James Hopkins, insolence and 
foul language. Rufus Dawes, gross insolence, refusing to work. 
- — Ah ! we must look after you. You are a parson's man, are 
you? I'll break your spirit, my man, or I'll Sylvia !" 

" Yes." 

" Your friend Dawes is doing credit to his bringing up." 

" What do you mean?" 

" That infernal villain and reprobate, Dawes. He is fitting 
himself faster for " 

She interrupted him. " Maurice, I wish you would not use 
such language. You know I dislike it." She spoke coldly and 
sadly, as one who knows that remonstrance is vain, and is yet 
constrained to remonstrate. 

" Oh, dear! My Lady Proper! can't bear to hear her husband 
swear. How refined we're getting !" 

" There, I did not mean to annoy you," said she, wearily. 
" Don't let us quarrel, for goodness' sake." 

He went away noisily, and she sat looking at the carpet 
wearily. A noise ro«sed her. She looked up and saw North. 
Her face beamed instantly. "Ah! Mr. North, I did not expect 
you. What brings you here? You'll stay to dinner, of course." 
(She rang the bell without waiting for a reply.) " Mr. North 
dines here ; place a chair for him. And have you brought me 
*he book? I have been looking for it." 

" Here it is," said North, producing a volume of ' Monte 
Christo.' " I envy you." 

She seized the book with avidity, and, after running her eyes 
over the pages, turned inquiringly to the fly-leaf. 

" It belongs to my predecessor," said North, as though in 
answer to her thought. " He seems to have been a great reader 
of French. I have found many French novels of his." 

" I thought clergymen never read French novels," said Sylvia, 
with a smile. 

"There are French novels and French novels," said North. 
" Stupid people confound the good with the bad. I remember 
a worthy friend of mine in Sydney who sounaly abused me for 
reading 'Rabelais,' and when I asked him if he had read it, he 
said that he would sooner cut his hand off than open it. 
Admirable judge of its merits ! " 

" Put is this really good ? Papa told me it was rubbish." 



IN WHICH THE CHAPLAIN IS TAKEN ILL. 401 



" It is a romance, but, in my opinion, a very fine one. The 
notion of the sailor being taught in prison by the priest, and 
sent back into the world, an accomplished gentleman, to work 
out his vengeance, is superb." 

" Now, now — you are telling me," laughed she ; and then, 
with feminine perversity, "Go on, what is the story?" 

" Only that of an unjustly imprisoned man, who, escaping by a 
marvel, and becoming rich — as Dr. Johnson says, ' beyond the 
dreams of avarice ' — devotes his life and fortune to revenge him- 
self." 

"And does he?" 

" He does, upon all his enemies save one." 

"And he ?" 

" She — was the wife of his greatest enemy, and Dantes spared 
her because he loved her." 

Sylvia turned away her head. "It seems interesting enough," 
said she, coldly. 

There was an awkward silence for a moment, which each 
seemed afraid to break. North bit his lips, as though regretting 
what he had said. Mrs. Frere beat her foot on the floor, and at 
length raising her eyes, and meeting those of the clergyman fixed 
upon her face, rose hurriedly, and went to meet her returning 
husband. 

" Come to dinner, of course !" said Frere, who, though he dis- 
liked the clergyman, yet was glad of anybody who would help 
him to pass a cheerful evening. 

" I came to bring Mrs. Frere a book." 

" Ah ! She reads too many books ; she's always reading 
books. It is not a good thing to be always poring over print, 
is it, North ? You have some influence with her ; tell her so. 
Come, I am hungry." 

He spoke with that affectation of jollity with which husbands 
of his calibre veil their bad temper. 

Sylvia had her defensive armour on in a twinkling. 

"Of course, you two men will be against me. When did two 
men ever disagree upon the subject of wifely duties ? However, 
I shall read in spite of you. Do you know, Mr. North, that 
when I married I made a special agreement with Captain Frere 
that I was not to be asked to sew on buttons for him f ' 

" Indeed ! " said North, not understanding this change of 
humour. 

26 



102 HIS NATURAL LIFE 

" And she never has from that hour," said Frere, recovering 
his suavity at the sight of food. " I never have a shirt fit to put 
on. Upon my word, there are a dozen in the drawer now." 

North perused his plate uncomfortably. A saying of omni- 
scient Balzac occurred to him. " Le grand dcueil est le ridicule," 
and his mind began to sound all sorts of philosophical depths, 
not of the most clerical character. 

After dinner Maurice launched out into his usual topic — con- 
vict discipline. It was pleasant for him to get a listener ; for 
his wife, cold and unsympathetic, tacitly declined to enter into 
his schemes for the subduing of the refractory villains. " You 
insisted on coming here," she would say. " I did not wish to 
come. I don't like to talk of these things. Let us talk of 
something else." When she adopted this method of procedure, 
he had no alternative but to submit, for he was afraid of her, 
after a fashion. In this ill-assorted match he was only apparently 
the master. He was a physical tyrant. For him, a creature 
had but to be weak to be an object of contempt ; and his gross 
nature triumphed over the finer one of his wife. Love had long 
since died out of their life. The young, impulsive, delicate girl, 
who had given herself to him seven years before, had been 
changed into a weary, suffering woman. The wife is what her 
husband makes her, and his rude animalism had made her the 
nervous invalid she was. Instead of love, he had awakened in 
her a distaste which at times amounted to disgust. We have 
neither the skill nor the boldness of that profound philosopher 
whose autopsy of the human heart awoke North's contemplation, 
and we will not presume to set forth in bare English the story of 
this marriage of the Minotaur. Let it suffice to say that Sylvia 
liked her husband least when he loved her most. In this repul- 
sion lay her power over him. When the animal and spiritual 
natures cross each other, the nobler triumphs in fact if not in 
appearance. Maurice Frere, though his wife obeyed him, knew 
that he was inferior to her, and was afraid of the statue he had 
created. She was ice, but it was the artificial ice that chemists 
make in the midst of a furnace. Her coldness was at once her 
strength and her weakness. When she chilled him, she com- 
manded him. 

Unwitting of the thoughts that possessed his guest, Frere 
chatted amicably. North said little, but drank a good deal. 
The win* howeven rendered him pilpnti instead of talkative* 



IN WHICH THE CHAPLAIN IS TAKEN ILL. 403 



He drank that he might forget unpleasant memories, and drank 
without accomplishing his object. When the pair proceeded to 
the room where Mrs. Frere awaited them, Frere was boisterously 
good humoured, North silently misanthropic. 

"Sing something, Sylvia!" said Frere, with the ease of posses- 
sion, as one who should say to a living musical-box, " Play 
something." 

" Oh, Mr. North doesn't care for music, and I'm not inclined 
to sing. Singing seems out of place here." 

" Nonsense," said Frere. " Why should it be more out of 
place here than anywhere else?" 

" Mrs. Frere means that mirth is in a manner unsuited to 
these melancholy surroundings," said North, out of his keener 
sense. 

" Melancholy surroundings ! " cried Frere, staring in turn at 
the piano, the ottomans, and the looking-glass. " Well, the 
house isn't as good as the one in Sydney, but it's comfortable 
enough." 

" You don't understand me, Maurice," said Sylvia. " This 
place is very gloomy to me. The thought of the unhappy men 
who are ironed and chained all about us makes me miserable.' 

"What stuff!" said Frere, now thoroughly roused. "The 
ruffians deserve all they get and more. Why should you make 
yourself wretched about them ? " 

" Poor men ! How do we know the strength of their tempta- 
tion, the bitterness of their repentance?" 

" Evil-doers earn their punishment," says North, in a hard 
voice, and taking up a book suddenly. "They must learn to 
bear it. No repentance can undo their sin." 

" But surely there is mercy for the worst of evil-doers," urged 
Sylvia, gently. 

North seemed disinclined or unable to reply, and nodded 
only. 

" Mercy !" cried Frere. " I am not here to be merciful ; I 
am here to keep these scoundrels in order, and by the Lord 
that made me, Pll do it!" 

" Maurice, do not talk like that. Think how slight an accident 
might have made any one of us like one of these men. What is 
the matter, Mr. North?" 

Mr. North has suddenly turned pale. 

n Nothing)" returned the derjrymans gasping — " ft sudden 



4 04 HIS NA TUBAL LIFE. 



faintness !" The windows were thrown open, and the chaplain 
gradually recovered, as he did in Burgess's parlour, at Port 
Arthur, seven years ago. " I am liable to these attacks. A 
touch of heart disease, I think. I shall have to rest for a day 
or so." 

"Ah, take a spell," said Frere ; "you overwork yourself." 

North, sitting, gasping and pale, smiles in a ghastly manner. 
' I — I will. If I do not appear for a week, Mrs. Frere, you will 
know the reason." 

" A week ! Surely it will not last so long as that," exclaims 
Sylvia. 

The ambiguous "it" appears to annoy him, for he flushes 
painfully, replying, " Sometimes longer. It is, a — urn — uncer- 
tain," in a confused and shame-faced manner, and is luckily 
relieved by the entry of Jenkins. 

"A message from Mr. Troke, sir." 

" Troke ! What's the matter now ?" 

" Dawes, sir, 's been violent and assaulted Mr. Troke. Mr. 
Troke said you'd left orders to be told at onst of the insub- 
ordination of prisoners." 

" Quite right, where is he ?" 

" In the cells, I think, sir. They had a hard fight to get him 
there, I am told, your honour." 

" Had they ? Give my compliments to Mr. Troke, and tell 
him that I shall have the pleasure of breaking Mr. Dawes's 
spirit to-morrow morning at nine sharp." 

" Maurice," said Sylvia, who had been listening to the con- 
versation in undisguised alarm, " do me a favour ? Do not 
torment this man." 

"What makes you take a fancy to him?" asks her husband, 
with sudden unnecessary fierceness. 

" Because his is one of the names which have been from my 
childhood synonymous with suffering and torture, because what- 
ever wrong he may have done, his life-long punishment must 
have in some degree atoned for it." 

She spoke with an eager pity in her face that transfigured it. 
North, devouring her with his glance, saw tears in her eyes. 

" Does this look as if he had made atonement?" said Frere 
coarsely, slapping the letter. 

" He is a bad man, I know, but " she passed her hand 

over her forehead with the old troubled gesture — " he cannot 



BREAKING A MAN'S SPIRIT. 405 

have been always bad. I think I have heard some good of him 
somewhere. " 

" Nonsense," said Frere, rising decisively. " Your fancies 
mislead you. Let me hear you no more. The man is rebellious, 
and must be lashed back again to his duty. Come, North, we'll 
have a nip before you start. " 

"Mr. North, will not you plead for me?" suddenly cried poor 
Sylvia, her self-possession overthrown. " You have a heart to 
pity these suffering creatures." 

But North, who seemed to have suddenly recalled his soul 
from some place where it had been wandering, draws himself 
aside, and with dry lips makes shift to say, " I cannot interfere 
with your husband, madam," and goes out almost rudely. 

"You've made old North quite ill," said Frere, when he by- 
and-by returns, hoping by bluff ignoring of roughness on his 
own part to avoid reproach from his wife. " He drank half a 
bottle of brandy to steady his nerves before he went home, and 
swung out of the house like one possessed." 

But Sylvia, occupied by her own thoughts, did not reply. 



CHAPTER VII. 

BREAKING A MAN'S SPIRIT. 



THE insubordination of which Rufus Dawes had been guilty 
was, in this instance, insignificant. It was the custom 
of the newly-fledged constables of Captain Frere to enter 
the wards at night, armed with cutlasses, tramping about, and 
making a great noise. Mindful of the report of Pounce, they pulled 
the men roughly from their hammocks, examined their persons for 
concealed tobacco, and compelled them to open their mouths 
to see if any was inside. The men in Dawes's gang— to which 
Mr. Trokc had an especial objection — were often searched more 
than once in a night, searched going to work, searched at meals, 
searched going to prayers, searched coming out, and this in the 
roughest manner. Their sleep broken, and what little self-re- 
spect they might yet presume to retain harried out of them, the 
objects of this incessant persecution were ready to turn upon 
and kill their tormentors. 

The great aim of Troke was to catch Dawes tripping, but the 



4 o6 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

leader of the " Ring " was too wary. In vain had Troke, eager 
to sustain his reputation for sharpness, burst in upon the convict 
at all times and seasons. He had found nothing. In vain had 
he laid traps for him ; in vain had he '' planted " figs of tobacco, 
and attaching long threads to them, waited in a bush hard by, 
until the pluck at the end of his line should give token that 
the fish had bitten. The experienced " old hand " was too acute 
for him. Filled with disgust and ambition, he determined upon 
an ingenious little trick. He war certain that Dawes possessed 
tobacco ; the thing was to find it upon him. Now, Rufus 
Dawes, holding aloof, as was his custom, from the majority 
of his companions, had made one friend — if so mindless and 
battered an old wreck could be called a friend — Blind Mooney. 
Perhaps this oddly-assorted friendship was brought about by 
two causes — one, that Mooney was the only man on the island 
who knew more of the horrors of convictism than the leader of 
the Ring ; the other, that Mooney was blind, and, to a moody, 
sullen man, subject to violent fits of passion and a constant 
suspicion of all his fellow-creatures, a blind companion was more 
congenial than a sharp-eyed one. 

Mooney was one of the " First Fleeters." He had arrived in 
Sydney fifty-seven years before, in the year 1789, and when 
he was transported he was fourteen years old. He had been 
through the whole round of servitude, had worked as a bonds- 
man, had married, and been " up country," had been again 
sentenced, and was a sort of dismal patriarch of Norfolk Island, 
having been there at its former settlement. He had no friends. 
His wife was long since dead, and he stated, without contra- 
diction, that his master, having taken a fancy to her, had 
despatched the uncomplaisant husband to imprisonment. 
Such cases were not uncommon. 

One of the many ways in which Rufus Dawes had obtained 
the affection of the old blind man was the gift of such fragments 
of tobacco as he had himself from time to time secured. Troke 
knew this ; and on the evening in question hit upon an excellent 
plan. Admitting himself noiselessly into the boat-shed, where 
the gang slept, he crept close to the sleeping Dawes, and coun- 
terfeiting Mooney's mumbling utterance, asked for " some 
tobacco." Rufus Dawes was but half awake, and on repeating 
his request, Troke felt something put into his hand. He grasped 
Dawes's arm, and struck a light. He had got his man this time. 



BREAKING A MAN'S SPIRIT. 407 

Dawes had conveyed to his fancied friend a piece of tobacco" 
almost as big as the top joint of his little finger. 

One can understand the feelings of a man entrapped by such 
base means. Rums Dawes no sooner saw the hated face of 
Warder Troke peering over his hammock, than he sprang out, 
and exerting to the utmost his powerful muscles, knocked Mr, 
Troke fairly off his legs into the arms of the in-coming con- 
stables. A desperate struggle took place, at the end of which, 
the convict, overpowered by numbers, was borne senseless to 
the cells, gagged, and chained to the ring-bolt on the bare flags. 
While in this condition he was savagely beaten by five or six 
constables. 

To this maimed and manacled rebel was the Commandant 
ushered by Troke the next morning. 

" Ha ! ha ! my man," said the Commandant. , " Here you are 
again, you see. How do you like this sort of thing? " 
Dawes, glaring, makes no answer. 

"You shall have fifty lashes, my man," said Frere. "We'll 
sec how you'll feel then ! " 

The fifty were duly administered, and the Commandant called 
the next day. The rebel was still mute. 

" Give him fifty more, Mr. Troke. We'll see what he's made of." 
One hundred and twenty lashes were inflicted in the course of 
the morning, but still the sullen convict refused to speak. He 
was then treated to fourteen days' solitary confinement in one of 
the new cells. On being brought out and confronted with his 
tormentor, he merely laughed. For this he was sent back for 
another fourteen days ; and still remaining obdurate, was Hogged 
again, and got fourteen days more. Had the chaplain then 
visited him, he might have found him open to consolation, but 
the chaplain — so it was stated — was sick. When brought out 
at the conclusion of his third confinement, he was found to be 
in so exhausted a condition, that the doctor ordered him to 
hospital. As soon as he was sufficiently recovered, Frere visited 
him, and finding his " spirit " not yet " broken," ordered that he 
should be put to grind maize. Dawes declined to work. So 
they chained his hand to one arm of the grindstone, and placed 
another prisoner at the other arm. As the second prisoner 
turned, the hand of Dawes of course revolved. 

"You're not such a pebble as folks seemed to think," grinned 
Frere, pointing to the turning wheel. 



408 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



Upon which the indomitable poor devil straightened his 
sorely-tried muscles, and prevented the wheel from turning 
at all. Frere gave him fifty more lashes, and sent him the 
next day to grind cayenne pepper. This was a punishment 
more dreaded by the convicts than any other. The pungent 
dust filled their eyes and lungs, causing them the most excru- 
ciating torments. For a man with a raw back the work was 
one continued agony. In four days, Rufus Dawes, emaciated 
blistered, blinded, broke down. 

" For God's sake, Captain Frere, kill me at once ! " he said. 

" No fear," said the other, rejoiced at this proof of his power. 
" You've given in ; that's all I wanted. Troke, take him to 
the hospital." 

When he was in hospital, North visited him. 

" I would have come to see you before," said the clergyman, 
" but I have been very ill." 

In truth he looked so. He had had a fever, it seemed, and 
they had shaved his beard, and cropped his hair. Dawes could 
see that the haggard, wasted man had passed through somo 
agony almost as great as his own. The next day Frere visited 
him, complimented him on his courage, and offered to make him 
a constable. Dawes turned his scarred back to his torturer, and 
resolutely declined to answer. 

" I am afraid you have made an enemy of the Commandant," 
said North, the next day. "Why not accept his offer?" 

Dawes cast on him a glance of quiet scorn. " And betray my 
mates? I'm not one of that sort." 

The clergyman spoke to him of hope, of release, of repentance, 
and redemption. The prisoner laughed. " Who's to redeem 
me ? " he said, expressing his thoughts in phraseology that to 
ordinary folks might seem blasphemous. " It would take a 
Christ to die again to save such as I." 

North spoke to him of immortality. " There is another life," 
said he. " Do not risk your chance of happiness in it. You 
have a future to live for, man." 

" I hope not," said the victim of the "system."' " I want to 
rest — to rest, and never to be disturbed again." 

His "spirit" was broken enough by this time. Yet he had 
resolution enough to refuse Frere's repeated offers. " I'll never 
' jump ' it," he said to North, " if they cut me in half first." 

North pityingly implored the stubborn mind to have mercy on 



DIARY OF THE REV. JAMES NORTH. 409 

the lacerated body, but without effect. His own wayward heart 
gave him the key to read the cipher of this man's life. "A 
noble nature ruined," said he to himself. " What is the secret of 
his history?" 

Dawes, on his part, seeing how different from other black 
coats was this priest— at once so ardent and so gloomy, so stern 
and so tender — began to speculate on the cause of his monitor's 
sunken cheeks, fiery eyes, and pre-occupied manner, to wonder 
what grief inspired those agonized prayers, those eloquent and 
daring supplications, which were daily poured out over his rude 
bed. So between these two — the priest and the sinner — was a 
sort of sympathetic bond. 

One day this bond was drawn so close as to tug at both their 
heart-strings. The chaplain had a flower in his coat. Dawes 
eyed it with hungry looks, and, as the clergyman was about to 
quit the room, said, " Mr. North, will you give me that rosebud?' 
North paused irresolutely, and finally, as if after a struggle with 
himself, took it carefully from his button-hole, and placed it in 
the prisoner's brown, scarred hand. In another instant, Dawes, 
believing himself alone, pressed the gift to his lips. North re- 
turned abruptly, and the eyes of the pair met. Dawes flushed 
crimson, but North turned white as death. Neither spoke, but 
each was drawn closer to the other, since both had kissed the 
rosebud plucked by Sylvia's fingers. 



CHAPTER VIII. 

EXTRACTED FROM THE DIARY OF THE REV. JAMES NORTH. 

OCTOBER 21st. — I am safe for another six months if I am 
careful, for my last bout lasted longer than I expected. 
I suppose one of these days I shall have a paroxysm 
that will kill me. I shall not regret it. 

I wonder if this familiar of mine — I begin to detest the 
expression — will accuse me of endeavouring to make a case for 
myself if I say that I believe my madness to be a disease ? I do 
believe it. I honestly can no more help getting drunk, than a 
lunatic can help screaming and gibbering. It would be different 
with me, perhaps, were I a contented man, happily married, with 
children about me, and family cares to distract me. But as I 



410 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

am — a lonely, gloomy being, debarred from love, devoured by 
spleen, and tortured with repressed desires — I become a living 
torment to myself. I think of happier men, with fair wives and 
clinging children, of men who are loved and who love, of Frere 
for instance — and a hideous wild beast seems to stir within me, 
a monster, whose cravings cannot be satisfied, can only be 
drowned in stupefying brandy. 

Penitent and shattered, I vow to lead a new life ; to forswear 
spirits, to drink nothing but water. Indeed, the sight and smell 
of brandy make me ill. All goes well for some weeks, when I 
grow nervous, discontented, moody. I smoke, and am soothed. 
But moderation is not to bethought of; little by little I increase 
the dose of tobacco. Five pipes a day become six or seven. 
Then I count up to ten and twelve, then drop to three or four, 
then mount to eleven at a leap ; then lose count altogether. 
Much smoking excites the brain. I feel clear, bright, gay. My 
tongue is parched in the morning, however, and I use liquor to 
literally " moisten my clay." I drink wine or beer in modera- 
tion, and all goes well. My limbs regain their suppleness, my 
hands their coolness, my brain its placidity. I begin to feel 
that I have a will. I am confident, calm, and hopeful. To this 
condition succeeds one of the most frightful melancholy. I 
remain plunged, for an hour together, in a stupor of despair. 
The earth, air, sea, all appear barren, colourless. Life is a 
burden. I long to sleep, and sleeping struggle to awake, 
because of the awful dreams which flap about me in the dark- 
ness. At night I cry, " Would to God it were morning !" in the 
morning, " Would to God it were evening!" I loathe myself, 
and all around me. I am nerveless, passionless, bowed down 
with a burden like the burden of Saul. I know well what will 
restore me to life and ease — restore me, but to cast me back 
again into a deeper fit of despair. I drink. One glass — my 
blood is warmed, — my heart leaps, my hand no longer shakes. 
Three glasses, I rise with hope in my soul, — the evil spirit flies 
from me. I continue— pleasing images flock to my brain, the 
fields break into flower, the birds into song, the sea gleams 
sapphire, the warm heaven laughs. Great God ! what man 
could withstand a temptation like this? 

By an effort, I shake off the desire to drink deeper, and fix 
my thoughts on my duties, on my books, on the wretched 
prisoners. I succeed perhaps for a time ; but my blood, heated 



DIARY OF THE REV. JAMES NORTH. 4" 



by the wine which is at once my poison and my life, boils in my 
veins. I drink again, and dream. I feel all the animal within 
me stirring. In the day my thoughts wander to all monstrous 
imaginings. The most familiar objects suggest to me loathsome 
thoughts. Obscene and filthy images surround me. My nature 
seems changed. By day I feel myself a wolf in sheep's clothing ; 
a man possessed by a devil, who is ready at any moment to 
break out and tear him to pieces. At night I become a satyr. 
While in this torment I at once hate and fear myself. One fair 
face is ever before me, gleaming through my hot dreams like a 
flying moon in the sultry midnight of a tropic storm. I dare not 
trust myself in the presence of those whom I love and respect, 
lest my wild thoughts should find vent in wilder words. I lose 
my humanity. I am a beast. Out of this depth there is but one 
way of escape. Downwards. I must drench the monster I 
have awakened until he sleeps again. I drink and become 
oblivious. In these last paroxysms there is nothing for me but 
brandy. I shut myself up alone and pour down my gullet huge 
draughts of spirit. It mounts to my brain. I am a man again ! 
and as I regain my manhood, I topple over — dead drunk. 

But the awakening ! Let me not paint it. The delirium, the 
fever, the self-loathing, the prostration, the despair. I view 
in the looking-glass a haggard face, with red eyes. I look 
down upon shaking hands, flaccid muscles, and shrunken limbs. 
I speculate if I shall ever be one of those grotesque and 
melancholy beings, with bleared eyes and running noses, swollen 
bellies and shrunken legs ! Ugh !— it is too likely. 

October 22nd.— Have spent the day with Mrs. Frcre. She is 
evidently eager to leave the place— as eager as I am. Frcre 
rejoices in his murderous power, and laughs at her expostula- 
tions. I suppose men get tired of their wives. In my present 
frame of mind I am at a loss to understand how a man could 
refuse a wife anything. 

I do not think she can possibly care for him. I am not a 
selfish sentimentalist, as are the majority of seducers. .1 would 
take no woman away from a husband for mere liking. Yet I 
think there are cases in which a man who loved would be 
justified in making a woman happy at the risk of his own — 
soul, I suppose. 

Making her happy ! Ay, that's the point. Would she be 



412 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

happy ? There are few men who can endure to be " cut," 
slighted, pointed at, and women suffer more than men in these 
regards. I, a grizzled man of forty, am not such an arrant ass 
as to suppose that a year of guilty delirium can compensate to a 
gently-nurtured woman for the loss of that social dignity which 
constitutes her best happiness. I am not such an idiot as to 
forget that there may come a time when the woman I love may 
cease to love me, and having no tie of self-respect, social position, 
or family duty, to bind her, may inflict upon her seducer that 
agony which he has taught her to inflict upon her husband. 
Apart from the question of the sin of breaking the seventh 
commandment, I doubt if the worst husband and the most un- 
happy home are not better, in this social condition of ours, 
than the most devoted lover. A strange subject this for a clergy- 
man to speculate upon ! If this diary should ever fall into the 
hands of a real God-fearing, honest booby, who never was 
tempted to sin by finding that at middle-age he loved the wife 
of another, how he would condemn me ! And rightly, of course. 

November 4th. — In one of the turnkey's rooms in the new 
gaol is to be seen an article of harness, which at first creates 
surprise to the mind of the beholder, who considers what 
animal of the brute creation exists of so diminutive a size as to 
admit of its use. On inquiry, it will be found to be a bridle, 
perfect in headband, throat-lash, etc., for a human being. 
There is attached to this bridle a round piece of cross wood, of 
almost four inches in length, and one and a half in diameter. 
This, again, is secured to a broad strap of leather to cross the 
mouth. In the wood there is a small hole, and, when used, the 
wood is inserted in the mouth, the small hole being the only 
breathing space. This being secured with the various straps and 
buckles, a more complete bridle could not be well imagined. 

I was in the gaol last evening at eight o'clock. I had been to 
see Rums Dawes, and returning, paused for a moment to speak 
to Hailey. Gimblett, who robbed Mr. Vane of two hundred 
pounds, was present ; he was at that time a turnkey, holding a 
third-class pass, and in receipt of two shillings per diem. Every- 
thing was quite still. I could not help remarking how quiet the 
gaol was, when Gimblett said, " There's some one speaking. I 
know who that is." And forthwith took from its pegs one of the 
bridles just described, and a pair of handcuffs. 



THE L ONGEST STRA W. 413 

I followed him to one of the cells, which he opened, and 
therein was a man lying on his straw mat, undressed, and to all 
appearance fast asleep. Gimblett ordered him to get up and 
dress himself. He did so, and came into the yard, where 
Gimblett inserted the iron-wood gag in his mouth. The sound 
produced by his breathing through it (which appeared to be 
done with great difficulty) resembled a low, indistinct whistle. 
Gimblett led him to the lamp-post in the yard, and I saw that 
the victim of his wanton tyranny was the poor blind wretch 
Mooney. Gimblett placed him with his back against the lamp- 
post, and his arms being taken round, were secured by hand- 
cuffs round the post. I was told that the old man was to 
remain in this condition for three hours. I went at once to the 
Commandant. He invited me into his drawing-room — an invi- 
tation which I had the good sense to refuse — but refused to 
listen to any plea for mercy. " The old impostor is always 
making his blindness an excuse for disobedience," said he. — 
And this is her husband ! 



CHAPTER IX. 

THE LONGEST STRAW. 



RUFUS DAWES hearing, when " on the chain" the next 
day, of the wanton torture of his friend, uttered no threat 
of vengeance, but groaned only. " I am not so strong as 
I was," said he, as if in apology for his lack of spirit. " They 
have unnerved me." And he looked sadly down at his gaunt 
frame and trembling hands. 

" I can't stand it no longer," said Mooney, grimly. " I've 
spoken to Bland, and he's of my mind. You know what we 
resolved to do. Let's do it." 

Rufus Dawes stared at the sightless orbs turned inquiringly 
to his own. The fingers of his hand, thrust into his bosom, felt 
a token which lay there. A shudder thrilled him. " No, no. 
Not now," he said. 

"You're not afeard, man?" asked Mooney, stretching out 
his hand in the direction of the voice. " You're not going to 
shirk?" The other avoided the touch, and shrank away, still 



414 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

staring. "You ain't going to back out after you swored it, 
Dawes ? You're not that sort. Dawes, speak, man ! " 

"Is Bland willing?" asked Dawes, looking round, as if to 
seek some method of escape from the glare of those unspecu- 
lative eyes. 

"Ay, and ready. They flogged him again yesterday." 

" Leave it till to-morrow," said Dawes, at length. 

" No ; let's have it over," urged the old man, with a strange 
eagerness. " I'm tired o' this." 

Rufus Dawes cast a wistful glance towards the wall behind 
which lay the house of the Commandant. " Leave it till to- 
morrow," he repeated, with his hand still in his breast. 

They had been so occupied in their conversation that neither 
had observed the approach of their common enemy. " What 
are you hiding there?" cried Frere, seizing Dawes by the wrist. 
"More tobacco, you dog?" The hand of the convict, thus 
suddenly plucked from his bosom, opened involuntarily, and a 
withered rose fell to the earth. Frere at once, indignant and 
astonished, picked it up. " Hallo ! What the devil's this ? 
You've not been robbing my garden for a nosegay, Jack?" The 
Commandant was wont to call all convicts "Jack" in his 
moments of facetiousness. It was a little humorous way he had. 

Rufus Dawes uttered one dismal cry, and then stood trembling 
and cowed. His companions, hearing the exclamation of rage 
and grief that burst from him, looked to see him snatch back 
the flower or perform some act of violence. Perhaps such was 
his intention, but he did not execute it. One would have 
thought that there was some charm about this rose so strangely 
cherished, for he stood gazing at it, as it twirled between 
Captain Frere's strong fingers, as though it fascinated him. 
" You're a pretty man to want a rose for your button-hole ! 
Are you going out with your sweetheart next Sunday, Mr. 
Dawes?" The gang laughed. "How did you get this?" 
Dawes was silent. "You'd better tell me." No answer. 
" Troke, let us see if we can't find Mr. Dawes's tongue. Pull 
off your shirt, my man. I expect that's the way to your heart — 
eh, boys ? " 

At this elegant allusion to the lash, the gang laughed again, 
and looked at each other astonished. It seemed possible that 
the leader of the Ring was going to turn milksop. Such, indeed, 
appeared to be the case, for Dawes;, trembling and pale ? eris^ 



THE LONGEST STRA W. 



415 



" Don't flog me again, sir ! I picked it up in the yard. It fell 
out of your coat one day.'' Frere smiled with an inward satis- 
faction at the result of his spirit-breaking. The explanation 
was probably the correct one. He was in the habit of wearing 
flowers in his coat, and it was impossible that the convict should 
have obtained one by any other means. Had it been a fig of 
tobacco now, the astute Commandant knew plenty of men who 
would have brought it into the prison. But who would risk a 
flogging for so useless a thing as a flower? "You'd better not 
pick up any more, Jack," he said. " We don't grow flowers 
for your amusement." And contemptuously flinging the rose 
over the wall, he strode away. 

The gang, left to itself for a moment, bestowed their attention 
upon Dawes. Large tears were silently rolling down his face, 
and he stood staring at the wall as one in a dream. The gang 
curled their lips. One fellow, more charitable than the rest, 
tapped his forehead and winked. " He's going cranky," said 
this good-natured man, who could not understand what a sane 
prisoner had to do with flowers. Dawes recovered himself, and 
the contemptuous glances of his companions seemed to bring 
back the colour to his cheeks. 

" We'll do it to-night," whispered he to Mooney, and Mooney 
smiled with pleasure. 

Since the " tobacco trick," Mooney and Dawes had been 
placed in the new prison, together with a man named Bland, 
who had already twice failed to kill himself. When old 
Mooney, fresh from the torture of the gag-and-bridle, lamented 
his hard case, Bland proposed that the three should put in 
practice a scheme in which two at least must succeed. The 
scheme was a desperate one, and attempted only in the last 
extremity. It was the custom of the Ring, however, to swear 
each of its members to carry out to the best of his ability 
this last invention of the convict-disciplined mind, should two 
other members crave his assistance. 

The scheme — like all great ideas — was simplicity itself. 

That evening, when the cell-door was securely locked, and 
the absence of a visiting gaoler might be counted upon for an 
hour at least, Bland produced a straw, and held it out to his 
companions. Dawes took it, and tearing it into unequal 
Ifengths) handed the fragments ta Mooney. 



4 i6 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

" The longest is the one," said the blind man. " Come on, 
boys, and dip in the lucky-bag ! " 

It was evident that lots were to be drawn to determine to 
whom fortune would grant freedom. The men drew in silence, 
and then Bland and Dawes looked at each other. The prize 
had been left in the bag. Mooney — fortunate old fellow — re- 
tained the longest straw. Bland's hand shook as he compared 
notes with his companion. There was a moment's pause, during 
which the blank eyeballs of the blind man fiercely searched the 
gloom, as if in that awful moment they could penetrate it. 

" I hold the shortest," said Dawes to Bland. "'Tis you that 
must do it.'' 

" I'm glad of that," said Mooney. 

Bland, seemingly terrified at the danger which fate had 
decreed that he should run, tore the fatal lot into fragments 
with an oath, and sat gnawing his knuckles in excess of 
abject terror. Mooney stretched himself out upon his plank- 
bed. " Come on, mate," he said. 

Bland extended a shaking hand, and caught Rufus Dawes by 
the sleeve. 

"You have more nerve than I. You do it." 

" No, no," said Dawes, almost as pale as his companion. 
" I've run my chance fairly. 'Twas your own proposal." 

The coward who, confident in his own luck, would seem to 
have fallen into the pit he had dug for others, sat rocking 
himself to and fro, holding his head in his hands. 

" By Heaven, I can't do it," he whispered, lifting a white, wet 
face. 

"What are you waiting for?" said fortunate Mooney. 
" Come on, I'm ready." 

" I — I — thought you might like to — to — pray a bit," said 
Bland. 

The notion seemed to sober the senses of the old man, exalted 
too fiercely by his good fortune. 

" Ay ! " he said. " Pray ! A good thought ! " and he knelt 
down ; and shutting his blind eyes — 'twas as though he was 
dazzled by some strong light — unseen by his comrades, moved 
his lips silently. 

The silence was at last broken by the footstep of the warder 
in the corridor. Bland hailed it as a reprieve from whatever act 
of daring he dreaded. 



THE LONGEST STRAW. 417 

" We must wait until he goes," he whispered eagerly. "He 
might look in." 

Dawes nodded, and Mooney, whose quick ear apprised him 
very exactly of the position of the approaching gaoler, rose from 
his knees radiant. The sour face of Gimblett appeared at the 
trap cell-door. 

'•'All right ?" he asked, somewhat — so the three thought — less 
sourly than usual. 

" All right," was the reply, and Mooney added, " Good-night, 
Mr. Gimblett." 

" I wonder what makes the old man so cheerful," thought 
Gimblett, as he got into the next corridor. 

The sound of his echoing footsteps had scarcely died away, 
when upon the ears of the two less fortunate casters of lots, fell 
the dull sound of rending woollen. The lucky man was tearing 
a strip from his blanket. " I think this will do," said he, pulling 
it between his hands to test its strength. " I am an old man." 
It was possible that he debated concerning the descent of some 
abyss into which the strip of blanket was to lower him. " Here, 
Bland, catch hold. Where are ye ? — don't be faint-hearted, man. 
It won't take ye long.'' 

It was quite dark now in the cell, but as Bland advanced, his 
face was like a white mask floating upon the darkness, it was so 
ghastly pale. Dawes pressed his lucky comrade's hand, and 
withdrew to the farthest corner. Bland and Mooney were for a 
few moments occupied with the rope — doubtless preparing for 
escape by means of it. The silence was broken only by the 
convulsive jangling of Bland's irons — he was shuddering vio- 
lently. At last Mooney spoke again, in strangely soft and 
subdued tones. 

" Dawes, lad, do you think there is a Heaven ? " 

" I know there is a Hell," said Dawes, without turning his 
face. 

"Ay, and a Heaven, lad. I think I shall go there. You will, 
old chap, for you've been good to me— God bless you, you've 
been very good to me." 

* * * * * 

When Troke came in the morning, he saw what had occurred 
at a glance, and hastened to remove the corpse of the strangled 
Mooney. 

" We drew lots," said Rufus Dawes, pointing to Bland, who 

27 



4 i 8 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

crouched in the corner farthest from his victim, " and it fell upon 
him to do it. I'm the witness." 

" They'll hang you for all that," said Troke. 

" I hope so," said Rufus Dawes. ' 

The scheme of escape hit upon by the convict intellect was 
simply this. Three men being together, lots were drawn to de- 
termine whom should be murdered. The drawer of the longest 
straw was the "lucky" man. He was killed. The drawer of 
the next longest straw was the murderer. He was hanged. 
The unlucky one was the witness. He had, of course, an ex- 
cellent chance of being hung also, but his doom was not so 
certain, and he therefore looked upon himself as unfortunate. 



CHAPTER X. 

A MEETING. 



JOHN REX found the " George " disagreeably prepared for 
his august arrival. Obsequious waiters took his dressing- 
bag and overcoat, the landlord himself welcomed him at 
the door. Two naval gentlemen came out of the coffee-room 
to stare at him. " Have you any more luggage, Mr. Devine ? " 
asked the landlord, as he flung open the door of the best draw- 
ing-room. It was awkwardly evident that his wife had no 
notion of suffering him to hide his borrowed light under a 
bushel. 

A supper-table laid for two people gleamed bright from the 
cheeriest corner. A fire crackled beneath the marble mantel- 
shelf. The latest evening paper lay upon a chair ; and, brushing 
it carelessly with her costly dress, the woman he had so basely 
deserted came smiling to meet him. 

" Well, Mr. Richard Devine,'' said she, " you did not expect 
to see me again, did you ? " 

Although, on his journey down, he had composed an elaborate 
speech wherewith to greet her, this unnatural civility dumb- 
founded him. " Sarah ! I never meant to " 

" Hush, my dear Richard — it must be Richard now, I sup- 
pose — This is not the time for explanations. Besides, the waiter 
might hear you« Let us have some supper, you must be hungry, 



A MEETING. 419 



I am sure." He advanced to the table mechanically. " How 
fat you are ! " she continued. " Too good living, I suppose. 

You were not so fat at Port Ar Oh, I forgot, my dear ! 

Come and sit clown. That's right. I have told them all that 
I am your wife, for whom you have sent. They regard me 
with some interest and respect in consequence. Don't spoil 
their good opinion of me." 

He was about to utter an imprecation, but she stopped him 
by a glance. " No bad language, John, or I shall ring for, a 
constable. Let us understand one another, my dear. You may 
be a very great man to other people, but to me you are merely 
my runaway husband — an escaped convict. If you don't eat 
your supper civilly, I shall send for the police." 

" Sarah !" he burst out, " I never meant to desert you. Upon 
my word. It is all a mistake. Let me explain." 

"There is no need for explanations yet, Jack — I mean Richard. 
Have your supper. Ah ! I know what you want." 

She poured out half a tumbler of brandy, and gave it to him. 
He took the glass from her hand, drank the contents, and then, 
as though warmed by the spirit, laughed. " What a woman 
you are, Sarah. I have been a great brute, I confess." 

" You have been an ungrateful villain," said she, with sudden 
passion, " a hardened, selfish villain." 

" But, Sarah " 

" Don't touch me ! " 

" 'Pon my word, you are a fine creature, and I was a fool to 
leave you." 

The compliment seemed to soothe her, for her tone changed 
somewhat. " It was a wicked, cruel act, Jack. You whom I 
saved from death — whom I nursed — whom I enriched. It was 
the act of a coward." 

" I admit it. It was." 

" You admit it. Have you no shame then ? Have you no 
pity for me for what I have suffered all these years?" 

" I don't suppose you cared much." 

"Don't you? You never thought about me at all. I have 
cared this much, John Rex— bah ! the door is shut close enough 
■ — that I have spent a fortune in hunting you down ; and now I 
have found you, I will make you suffer in your turn." 

He laughed again, but uneasily. " How did you discover 
me?" 



4 2 ° HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



With a readiness which showed that she had already prepared 
an answer to the question, she unlocked a writing case which 
was on the side table, and took from it a newspaper. " By one 
of those accidents which are the ruin of men like you. Among 
the papers sent to the overseer from his English friends was 
this one." 

She held out an illustrated journal — a Sunday organ of sport- 
ing opinion— and pointed to a portrait engraved on the centre 
page. It represented a broad-shouldered, bearded man, dressed 
in the fashion affected by turfites and lovers of horseflesh, 
standing beside a pedestal on which were piled a variety of 
racing cups and trophies. John Rex read underneath this work 
of art the name 

MR. RICHARD DEVINE, 

THE LEVIATHAN OF THE TURF. 

" And you recognized me ?" 

" The portrait was sufficiently like you to induce me to make 
inquiries, and when I found that Mr. Richard Devine had 
suddenly returned from a mysterious absence of fourteen years, 
I set to work in earnest. I have spent a deal of money, Jack, 
but I've got you!" 

" You have been clever in finding me out ; I give you credit 
for that." 

" There is not a single act of your life, John Rex, that I do not 
know," she continued, with heat. " I have traced you from the 
day you stole out of my house until now. I know your continental 
trips, your journeyings here and there in search of a lost clue. 
I pieced together the puzzle, as you have done, and I know that, 
by some foul fortune, you have stolen the secret of a dead man 
to ruin an innocent and virtuous family." 

"Hullo! hullo!" said John Rex. "Since when have you 
learnt to talk of virtue?" 

" It is well to taunt, but you have got to the end of your tether 
now, Jack. I have communicated with the woman whose son's 
fortune you have stolen. I expect to hear from Lady Devine in 
a day or so." 

"Well — and when you hear?" 

" I shall give back the fortune at the price of her silence'" 

"Ho! ho! Will you?" 



A MEETING. 421 



" Yes ; and if my husband does not come back and live with 
me quietly, I shall call in the police." 

John Rex sprang up. "Who will believe you, idiot?" he 
cried. " I'll have you sent to gaol as an imposter." 

" You forget, my dear," she returned, playing coquettishly 
with her rings, and glancing sideways as she spoke, " that you 
have already acknowledged me as your wife before the landlord 
and the servants. It is too late for that sort of thing. Oh, my 
dear Jack, you think you are very clever, but I am as clever as 
you." 

Smothering a curse, he sat down beside her. " Listen, Sarah. 
What is the use of fighting like a couple of children. I am 
rich ." 

" So am I." 

" Well, so much the better. We will join our riches together. 
I admit that I was a fool and a cur to leave you ; but I played 
for a great stake. The name of Richard Devine was worth 
nearly half a million of money. It is mine. I won it. Share 
it with me ! Sarah, you and I defied the world years ago. 
Don't let us quarrel now. I was ungrateful. Forget it. We 
know by this time that we are not either of us angels. We 
started in life together — do you remember, Sally, when I met 
you first? — determined to make money. We have succeeded. 
Why then set to work to destroy each other ? You are hand- 
some as ever, I have not lost my wits. Is there any need for 
you to tell the world that I am a runaway convict, and that you 
are — well no, of course, there is no need. Kiss, and be friends, 
Sarah. I would have escaped you if I could, I admit. You 
have found me out. I accept the position. You claim me as 
your husband. You say you are Mrs. Richard Devine. Very 
well, I admit it. You have all your life wanted to be a great 
lady. Now is your chance !" 

Much as she had cause to hate him, well as she knew his 
treacherous and ungrateful character, little as she had reason to 
trust him, her strange and distempered affection for the 
scoundrel came upon her again with gathering strength. As 
she sat beside him, listening to the familiar tones of the voice 
she had learned to love, greedily drinking in the promise of a 
future fidelity which she was well aware was made but to be 
broken, her memory recalled the past days of trust and hap- 
piness, and her woman's fancy once more invested the selfish 



422 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

villain she had reclaimed with those attributes which had 
enchained her wilful and wayward affections. The unselfish 
devotion which had marked her conduct to the swindler and 
convict was, indeed, her one redeeming virtue ; and perhaps 
she felt dimly — poor woman — that it were better for her to cling 
to that, if she lost all the world beside. Her wish for vengeance 
melted under the influence of these thoughts. The bitterness of 
despised love, the shame and anger of desertion, ingratitude, 
and betrayal, all vanished. The tears of a sweet forgiveness 
trembled in her eyes, the unreasoning love of her sex — faithful 
to nought but love, and faithful to love in death — shook in her 
voice. She took his coward hand and kissed it, pardoning all 
his baseness with the sole reproach, " Oh John, John, you 
might have trusted me after all ?" 

John Rex had conquered, and he smiled as he embraced her, 
' I wish I had," said he ; " it would have saved me many 
regrets; but never mind. Sit down ; now we will have supper/ 

" Your preference has one drawback, Sarah," he said, when 
the meal was concluded, and the two sat down to consider their 
immediate course of action, " it doubles the chance of detection." 

"How so?" 

" People have accepted me without inquiry, but I am afraid 
not without dislike. Mr. Francis Wade, my uncle, never liked 
me ; and I fear I have not played my cards well with Lady 
Devine. When they find I have a mysterious wife their dislike 
will become suspicion. Is it likely that I should have been 
married all these years and not have informed them?" 

" Very unlikely," returned Sarah calmly, " and that is just 
the reason why you have not been married all these years. 
Really," she added, with a laugh, " the male intellect is very 
dull. You have already told ten thousand lies about this affair, 
and yet you don't see your way to tell one more." 

" What do you mean?" 

"Why, my dear Richard, you surely cannot have forgotten 
that you married me last year on the Continent ? By the way, 
it was last year that you were there, was it not ? I am the 
daughter of a poor clergyman of the Church of England; name 
— anything you please — and you met me — where shall we say? 
Baden, Aix, Brussels ? Cross the Alps, if you like, dear, and 
say Rome." 



A MEETING. 423 



John Rex put his hand to his head. "Of course — I am 
stupid," said he. " I have not been well lately. Too much 
brandy and racket, I suppose." 

" Well, we will alter all that," she returned with a laugh, 
which her anxious glance at him belied. " You are going to 
be domestic now, Jack — I mean Dick." 

" Go on," said he, impatiently. "What then?" 

" Then, having settled these little preliminaries, you take me 
up to London and introduce me to your relatives and friends." 

He started. " A bold game." 

" Bold ! Nonsense ! The only safe one. People don't, as a 
rule, suspect, unless one is mysterious. You must do it; I have 
arranged for your doing it. The waiters here all know me as 
your wife. There is not the least danger — unless, indeed, you 
arc married already?" she added, with a quick and angry 
suspicion. 

" You need not be alarmed. I was not such a fool as to 
many another woman while you were alive — had I even seen 
one I would have cared to marry. But what of Lady Uevine ? 
You say you have told her." 

" I have told her to communicate with Mrs. Carr, Post-office, 
Torquay, in order to hear something to her advantage. If you 
had been rebellious, John, the 'something' would have been a 
letter from me telling her who you really are. Now you have 
proved obedient, the ' something ' will be a begging letter of a 
sort of which she has already received hundreds, and which in 
all probability she will not even answer. What do you think of 
that, Mr. Richard Dcvinc?" 

" You deserve success, Sarah," said the old schemer, in 
genuine admiration. " By Jove, this is something like the old 
days, when we were Mr. and Mrs. Crofton." 

"Or, Mr. and Mrs. Skinner, eh, John?" she said, with as 
much tenderness in her voice as though she had been a virtuous 
matron recalling her honeymoon. " That was an unlucky name, 
wasn't it dear ? You should have taken my advice there." And, 
immersed in grateful recollection of their past rogueries, the 
worthy pair pensively smiled. Rex was the first to awake from 
that pleasant reverie. 

" 1 will be guided by you then," he said. " What next ?" 

" Next — for, as you say, my presence doubles the danger — we 
will conu ive to withdraw quietly from England. The introduc- 



424 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

tion to your mother over, and Mr. Francis disposed of, we will 
go to Hampstead, and live there for a while. During that time 
you must turn into cash as much property as you dare. We 
will then go abroad for the ' season ' — and stop there. After a 
year or so on the Continent, you can write to our agent to sell 
more property ; and, finally, when we are regarded as permanent 
absentees — and three or four years will bring that about — we 
will get rid of everything, and slip over to America. Then 
you can endow a charity if you like, or build a church to the 
memory of the man you have displaced." 

John Rex burst into a laugh. "An excellent plan. I like the 
idea of the charity — the Devine Hospital, eh?" 

" By the way, how did you find out the particulars of this 
man's life ? He was burned in the Hydaspes, wasn't he ?" 

" No," said Rex, with an air of pride. " He was transported 
in the Malabar under the name of Rufus Dawes. You remem- 
ber him. It is a long story. The particulars weren't numerous, 
and if the old lady had been half sharp she would have bowled 
me out. But the fact was she wanted to find the fellow alive, 
and was willing to take a good deal on trust. I'll tell you all 
about it another time. I think I'll go to bed now ; I'm tired, 
and my head aches as though it would split." 

" Then it is decided that you follow my directions ?" 

" Yes." 

She rose and placed her hand on the bell. "What are you 
going to do ? " he asked, uneasily. 

"/am going to do nothing. You are going to telegraph to 
your servants to have the house in London prepared for your 
wife, who will return with you the day after to-morrow." 

John Rex stayed her hand with a sudden angry gesture. 
"This is all devilish fine," he said, "but suppose it fails?" 

" That is your affair, John. You need not go on with this 
business at all, unless you like. I had rather you didn't." 

" What the deuce am I to do, then ? " 

" I am not as rich as you are, but, with my station and so on, 
I am worth seven thousand a year. Come back to Australia 
with me, and let these poor people enjoy their own again. Ah, 
John, it is the best thing to do, believe me. We can afford to 
be honest now." 

"A fine scheme!" cried he. "Give up half a million of 
money, and go back to Australia ! You must be mad ! " 



DIARY OF THE REV. J AMES NORTH. 425 

" Then telegraph." 

" But, my dear " 

" Hush, here's the waiter." 

As he wrote, John Rex felt gloomily that, though he had suc- 
ceeded in recalling her affection, that affection was as imperious 
as of yore. 



CHAPTER XL 

EXTRACTED FROM THE DIARY OF THE REV. JAMES NORTH. 

DECEMBER 7th. — I have made up my mind to leave this 
place, to bury myself again in the bush, I suppose, and 
await extinction. I try to think that the reason for this 
determination is the frightful condition of misery existing among 
the prisoners ; that because I am daily horrified and sickened 
by scenes of torture and infamy, I decide to go away ; that, 
feeling myself powerless to save others, I wish to spare myself. 
But in this journal, in which I bind myself to write nothing but 
truth, I am forced to confess that these are not the reasons. I 
will write the reason plainly : " I covet my neighbour's wife." 
It does not look well thus written. It looks hideous. In my 
own breast I find numberless excuses for my passion. I said to 
myself, " My neighbour does not love his wife, and her unloved 
life is misery. She is forced to live in the frightful seclusion of 
this accursed island, and she is dying for want of companionship. 
She feels that I understand and appreciate her, that I could love 
her as she deserves, that I could render her happy. I feel that I 
have met the only woman who has power to touch my heart, to 
hold me back from the ruin into which I am about to plunge, to 
make me useful to my fellows — a man, and not a drunkard." 
Whispering these conclusions to myself, I am urged to brave 
public opinion, and make two lives happy. I say to myself, or 
rather my desires say to me — "What sin is there in this ? Adul- 
tery? No; for a marriage without love is the coarsest of all 
adulteries. What tie binds a man and woman together — that 
formula of license pronounced by the priest, which the law has 
recognized as a 'legal bond' ? Surely not this only, for marriage 
is but a partnership — a contract of mutual fidelity — and in all 
contracts the violation of the terms of the agreement by one of 



4 20 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



the contracting persons absolves the other. Mrs. Frere is then 
absolved, by her husband's act. I cannot but think so. But 
is she willing to risk the shame of divorce or legal offence? 
Perhaps. Is she fitted by temperament to bear such a burden 
of contumely as must needs fall upon her ? Will she not feel 
disgust at the man who entrapped her into shame ? Do not the 
comforts which surround her compensate for the lack of affec- 
tion?" And so the torturing catechism continues, until I am 
driven mad with doubt, love, and despair. 

Of course I am wrong ; of course I outrage my character as 
a priest ; of course I endanger — according to the creed I teach 
— my soul and hers. But priests, unluckily, have hearts and 
passions as well as other men. Thank God, as yet, I have never 
expressed my madness in words. What a fate is mine ! When I 
am in her presence I am in torment ; when I am absent from 
her my imagination pictures her surrounded by a thousand 
graces that are not hers, but belong to all the women of my 
dreams— to Helen, to Juliet, to Rosalind. Fools that we are of 
our own senses ! When I think of her I blush ; when I hear 
her name my heart leaps, and I grow pale. Love ! What is 
the love of two pure souls, scarce conscious of the Paradise into 
which they have fallen, to this maddening delirium ? I can 
understand the poison of Circe's cup ; it is the sweet-torment of 
a forbidden love like mine ! Away gross materialism, in which 
I have so long schooled myself ! I, who laughed at passion as 
the outcome of temperament and easy living — I, who thought 
in my intellect, to sound all the depths and shoals of human 
feeling— I, who analysed my own soul — scoffed at my own yearn- 
ings for an immortality — am forced to deify the senseless power of 
my creed, and believe in God, that I may pray to Him. I know 
now why men reject the cold impersonality that reason tells us 
rules the world — it is because they love. To die, and be no 
more ; to die, and rendered into dust, be blown about the earth ; 
to die, and leave our love defenceless and forlorn, till the bright 
soul that smiled to ours is smothered in the earth that made it ! 
No ! To love is life eternal. God, I believe in Thee ! Aid 
me ! Pity me ! Sinful wretch that I am, to have denied Thee 1 
See me on my knees before Thee ! Pity me, or let me die ! 

December 9th. — I have been visiting the two condemned 
prisoners, Dawes and Bland, and praying with them . O Lord, 
let me save one soul that may plead with Thee for mine ! Let 



DIARY OF 7IIE REV. JAMES NORTH. 427 

me draw one being alive out of this pit ! I weep — I weary Thee 
with my prayers, O Lord ! Look down upon me. Grant me a 
sign. Thou didst it in old times to men who were not more 
fervent in their supplications than am I. So says Thy Book. 
Thy Book which I believe — which I believe. Grant me a sign 
— one little sign, O Lord ! — I will not see her. I have sworn it. 
Thou knowest my grief — my agony — my despair. Thou know- 
est why I love her. Thou knowest how I strive to make her 
hate me. Is that not a sacrifice ? I am so lonely — a lonely man, 
with but one creature that he loves — yet, what is mortal love to 
Thee ? Cruel and implacable, Thou sittest in the heavens men 
have built for Thee, and scorncst them ! Will not all the 
burnings and slaughters of the saints appease Thee ? Art Thou 
not sated with blood and tears, O God of vengeance, of wrath, 
and of despair ? Kind Christ, pity me. Thou wilt — for Thou 
wast human ! Blessed Saviour, at whose feet knelt the Mag- 
dalen ! Divinity, who, most divine in Thy despair, called on 
Thy cruel God to save Thee— by the memory of that moment 
when Thou didst deem Thyself forsaken— forsake not me ! 
Sweet Christ, have mercy on Thy sinful servant. 

I can write no more. I will pray to Thee with my lips. I 
will shriek my supplications to Thee. I will call upon Thee so 
loud that all the world shall hear me, and wonder at Thy silence 
— unjust and unmerciful God ! 

December 14th. — What blasphemies are these which I have 
uttered in my despair ? Horrible madness that has left me 
prostrate, to what heights of frenzy didst thou not drive my 
soul ! Like him of old time, who wandered among the tombs, 
shrieking and tearing himself, I have been possessed by a devil. 
For a week I have been unconscious of aught save torture. I 
have gone about my daily duties as one who in his dreams 
repeats the accustomed action of the day, and knows it not. 
Men have looked at me strangely. They look at me strangely 
now. Can it be that my disease of drunkenness has become 
the disease of insanity ? Am I mad, or do I but verge on 
madness ? O Lord, whom in my agonies I have confessed, 
leave me my intellect — let me not become a drivelling spec- 
tacle for the curious to point at or to pity ! At least, in mercy, 
spare me a little. Let not my punishment overtake me here. 



428 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

Let her memories of me be clouded with a sense of my rudeness 
or my brutality ; let me for ever seem to her the ungrateful 
ruffian I strive to show myself— but let her not behold me— 
that/ 



CHAPTER XII. 
THE STRANGE BEHAVIOUR OF MR. NORTH. 

ON or about the 8th of December, Mrs. Frere noticed a 
sudden and unaccountable change in the manner of the 
chaplain. He came to her one afternoon, and, after 
talking for some time, in a vague and unconnected manner, 
about the miseries of the prison and the wretched condition of 
some of the prisoners, began to question her abruptly concerning 
Rufus Dawes. 

" I do not wish to think of him," said she, with a shudder. 
" I have the strangest, the most horrible dreams about him. 
He is a bad man. He tried to murder me when a child, and 
had it not been for my husband, he would have done so. I 
have only seen him once since then — at Hobart Town, when 
he was taken." 

" He sometimes speaks to me of you," said North, eyeing her. 
" He asked me once to give him a rose plucked in your garden." 

Sylvia turned pale. " And you gave it him ? " 

" Yes, I gave it him. Why not ?" 

" It was valueless, of course, but still — to a convict !" 

"You are not angry?" 

"Oh, no! Why should I be angry?" she laughed con- 
strainedly. " It was a strange fancy for the man to have, that's 
all." 

" I suppose you would not give me another rose, if I asked you." 

" Why not ? " said she, turning away uneasily. " You ? You 
are a gentleman." 

" Not I — you don't know me." 

" What do you mean ?" 

" I mean that it would be better for you if you had never seen 
me." 

" Mr. North ! " Terrified at the wild gleam in his eyes, she 
had risen hastily. " You are talking very strangely." 



THE STRANGE BEHAVIOUR OF MR. NORTH. 429 

" Oh, don't be alarmed, Madam, I am not dricnk ! " — he pro- 
nounced the word with a fierce energy. " I had better leave 
you. Indeed, I think the less we see of each other the better." 

Deeply wounded and astonished at this extraordinary out- 
burst, Sylvia allowed him to stride away without a word. She 
saw him pass through the garden and slam the little gate, but 
she did not see the agony on his face, or the passionate gesture 
with which — when out of eyeshot — he lamented the voluntary 
abasement of himself before her. She thought over his conduct 
with growing fear. It was not possible that he was intoxicated 
— such a vice was the last one of which she could have believed 
him guilty. It was more probable that some effects of the fever, 
which had recently confined him to his house, yet lingered. So 
she thought ; and, thinking, was alarmed to realize of how 
much importance the well-being of this man was to her. 

The next day he met her, and, bowing, passed swiftly. This 
pained her. Could she have offended him by some unlucky 
word ? She made Maurice ask him to dinner, and, to her 
astonishment, he pleaded illness as an excuse for not coming. 
Her pride was hurt, and she sent him back his books and music. 
A curiosity that was unworthy of her compelled her to ask the 
servant who carried the parcel what the clergyman had said. 
" He said nothing — only laughed." Laughed ! In scorn of her 
foolishness ! His conduct was ungentlemanly and intemperate. 
She would forget, as speedily as possible, that such a being had 
ever existed. This resolution taken, she was unusually patient 
with her husband. 

So a week passed, and Mr. North did not return. Unluckily 
for the poor wretch, the very self-sacrifice he had made 
brought about the precise condition of things which he was 
desirous to avoid. It is possible that had the acquaintance 
between them continued on the same staid footing, it would 
have followed the lot of most acquaintanceships of the kind — 
other circumstances and other scenes might have wiped out 
the memory of all but common civilities between them, and 
Sylvia might never have discovered that she had for the 
chaplain any other feeling but that of esteem. But the very 
fact of the sudden wrenching away of her soul-companion, 
showed her how barren was the solitary life to which she 
had been fated. Her husband, she had long ago admitted, 
with bitter self-communings, was utterly unsuited to her. She 



430 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

could find in his society no enjoyment, and for the sympathy 
which she needed was compelled to turn elsewhere. She under- 
stood that his love for her had burnt itself out — she confessed, 
with intensity of self-degradation, that his apparent affection 
had been born of sensuality, and had perished in the fires it 
had itself kindled. Many women have, unhappily, made some 
such discovery as this, but for most women there is some dis- 
tracting occupation. Had it been Sylvia's fate to live in the 
midst of fashion and society, she would have found relief in the 
conversation of the witty, or the homage of the distinguished. 
Had fortune cast her lot in a city, Mrs. Frere might have become 
one of those charming women who collect around their supper- 
tables whatever of male intellect is obtainable, and who find the 
husband admirably useful to open his own champagne bottles. 
The celebrated women who have stepped out of their domestic 
circles to enchant or astonish the world, have almost invariably 
been cursed with unhappy homes. But poor Sylvia was not 
destined to this fortune. Cast back upon herself, she found no 
surcease of pain in her own imaginings, and meeting with a 
man sufficiently her elder to encourage her to talk, and suffi- 
ciently clever to induce her to seek his society and his advice, 
she learnt, for the first time, to forget her own griefs ; for the 
first time she suffered her nature to expand under the sun of 
a congenial influence. This sun, suddenly withdrawn, her 
soul, grown accustomed to the warmth and light, shivered 
at the gloom, and she looked about her in dismay at the 
dull and barren prospect of life which lay before her. In 
a word, she found that the society of North had become so 
far necessary to her, that to be deprived of it was a grief— 
notwithstanding that her husband remained to console her. 

After a week of such reflections, the barrenness of life grew 
insupportable to her, and one day she came to Maurice and 
begged to be sent back to Hobart Town. " I cannot live in 
this horrible island," she said. " I am getting ill. Let me go 
to my father for a few months, Maurice." Maurice consented. 
His wife was looking ill, and Major Vickers was an old man — 
a rich old man — who loved his only daughter. It was not 
undesirable that Mrs. Frere should visit her father; indeed, 
so little sympathy was there between the pair, that, the first 
astonishment over, Maurice felt rather glad to get rid of her for 
a while. " You can go back in the Lady Franklin, if you like, 



THE STRANGE BEHAVIOUR OF MR. NORTH. 431 

my dear," he said. " I expect her every day." At this decision 
— much to his surprise — she kissed him with more show of 
affection than she had manifested since the death of her child. 

The news of the approaching departure became known, but 
still North did not make his appearance. Had it not been a 
step beneath the dignity of a woman, Mrs. Frere would have gone 
herself and asked him the meaning of his unaccountable rude- 
ness, but there was just sufficient morbidity in the sympathy 
she had for him to restrain her from an act which a young 
girl — though not more innocent — would have dared without 
hesitation. Calling one day upon the wife of the surgeon, 
however, she met the chaplain face to face, and with the con- 
summate art of acting which most women possess, rallied him 
upon his absence from her house. The behaviour of the poor 
devil, thus stabbed to the heart, was curious. He forgot gen- 
tlemanly behaviour and the respect due to a woman, flung one 
despairingly angry glance at her, and abruptly retired. Sylvia 
flushed crimson, and endeavoured to excuse North on account 
of his recent illness. The surgeon's wife looked askance, and 
turned the conversation. The next time Sylvia bowed to this 
lady, she got a chilling salute in return that made her blood 
boil. " I wonder how I have offended Mrs. Field ? " she asked 
Maurice. " She almost cut me to-day.'' "Oh, the old cat!" 
returned Maurice. "What does it matter if she did?" How- 
ever, a few days afterwards, it seemed that it did matter ; for 
Maurice called upon Field and conversed seriously with him. 
The issue of the conversation being reported to Mrs. Frere, 
the lady wept indignant tears of wounded pride and shame. 
It appeared that North had watched her out of the house 
returned, and related — in a " stumbling, hesitating way," Mrs. 
Field said — how he disliked Mrs. Frere, how he did not want 
to visit her, and how flighty and reprehensible such conduct was 
in a married woman of her rank and station. This act of base- 
ness — or profound nobleness — achieved its purpose. Sylvia 
noticed the unhappy priest no more. 

Between the Commandant and the chaplain now arose a 
coolness, and Frere set himself, by various petty tyrannies, to 
disgust North, and compel him to a resignation of his office. 
The convict-gaolers speedily marked the difference in the treat- 
ment of the chaplain, and their demeanour changed. For respect 
was substituted insolence ; for alacrity, sullenncss ; for prompt 



43 2 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 



obedience, impertinent intrusion. The men whom North fa- 
voured were selected as special subjects for harshness, and for 
a prisoner to be seen talking to the clergyman, was sufficient 
to ensure for him a series of tyrannies. The result of this was, 
that North saw the souls he laboured to save slipping back into 
the gulf ; beheld the men he had half won to love him meet 
him with averted faces ; discovered that to show interest in a 
prisoner was to injure him, not to serve him. The unhappy 
man grew thinner and paler under this ingenious torment. He 
had deprived himself of that love which, guilty though it might 
be, was, nevertheless, the only true love he had known ; and he 
found that, having won this victory, he had gained the hatred of 
all living creatures with whom he came in contact. The autho- 
rity of the Commandant was so supreme that men lived but by 
the breath of his nostrils. To offend him was to perish, and the 
man whom the Commandant hated must be hated also by all 
those who wished to exist in peace. There was but one being 
who was not to be turned from his allegiance— the convict mur- 
derer, Rufus Dawes, who awaited death. For many days he 
had remained mute, broken down beneath his weight of sorrow 
or of sullen ness ; but North, bereft of other love and sympathy, 
strove with that fighting soul, if haply he might win it back to 
peace. It seemed to the fancy of the priest— a fancy distempered, 
perhaps, by excess, or superhumanly exalted by mental agony — 
that this convict, over whom he had wept, was given to him as a 
hostage for his own salvation. " I must save him or perish," he 
said. " I must save him, though I redeem him with my own 
blood." 

Frere, unable to comprehend the reason of the calmness with 
which the doomed felon met his taunts and torments, thought 
that he was shamming piety to gain some indulgence of meat 
and drink, and redoubled his severity. He ordered Dawes to 
be taken out to work just before the hour at which the chaplain 
was accustomed to visit him. He pretended that the man was 
"dangerous," and directed a gaoler to be present at all inter- 
views, " lest the chaplain might be murdered." He issued an 
order that all civil officers should obey the challenges of convicts 
acting as watchmen ; and North, coming to pray with his peni- 
tent, would be stopped ten times by grinning felons, who, putting 
their faces within a foot of his, would roar out, " Who goes 
there ? " and burst out laughing at the reply. Under pretence 



MR. NORTH SPEAKS. 433 

of watching more carefully over the property of the chaplain, he 
directed that any convict, acting as constable, might at any time 
" search everywhere and anywhere," for property supposed to be 
in the possession of a prisoner. The chaplain's servant was a 
prisoner, of course ; and North's drawers were ransacked twice 
in one week by Troke. North met these impertinences with 
unruffled brow, and Frere could in no way account for his 
obstinacy, until the arrival of the Lady Franklin explained the 
chaplain's apparent coolness. He had sent in his resignation 
two months before, and the saintly Meekin had been appointed 
in his stead. Frere, unable to attack the clergyman, and 
indignant at the manner in which he had been defeated, re- 
venged himself upon Rufus Dawes. 



CHAPTER XIII. 

MR. NORTH SPEAKS. 



THE method and manner of Frere's revenge became a sub- 
ject of whispered conversation on the island. It was 
reported that North had been forbidden to visit the con- 
vict, but that he had refused to accept the prohibition, and by a 
threat of what he would do when the returning vessel had landed 
him in Hobart Town, had compelled the Commandant to with- 
draw his order. The Commandant, however, speedily discovered 
in Rufus Dawes signs of insubordination, and set to work again 
to reduce again still further the " spirit " he had so ingeniously 
"broken." The unhappy convict was deprived of food, was 
kept awake at nights, was put to the hardest labour, was loaded 
with the heaviest irons. Troke, with devilish malice, suggested 
that, if the tortured wretch would decline to sec the chaplain, 
some amelioration of his condition might be effected ; but his 
suggestions were in vain. Fully believing that his death was 
certain, Dawes clung to North as the saviour of his agonized 
soul, and rejected all such insidious overtures. Enraged at this 
obstinacy, Frere sentenced his victim to the "spread eagle" and 
the " stretcher." 

Now the rumour of the obduracy of this undaunted convict 

28 



^34 &IS NATURAL LIFE. 

who had been recalled to her by the clergyman at their strange 
interview, had reached Sylvia's ears. She had heard gloomy 
hints of the punishments inflicted on him by her husband's 
order ; and as — constantly revolving in her mind that last con- 
versation with the chaplain — she wondered at the prisoner's 
strange fancy for a flower, her brain began to thrill with those 
undefined and dreadful memories which had haunted her child- 
hood. What was the link between her and this murderous 
villain? How came it that she felt at times so strange a 
sympathy for his fate, and that he — who had attempted her 
life — cherished so tender a remembrance of her as to beg for a 
flower which her hand had touched ? 

She questioned her husband concerning the convict's mis- 
doings, but with the petulant brutality which he invariably 
displayed when the name of Rufus Dawes intruded itself into 
their conversation, Maurice Frere harshly refused to satisfy her. 
This but raised her curiosity higher. She reflected how bitter 
he had always seemed against this man — she remembered how, 
in the garden at Port Arthur, the hunted wretch had caught her 
dress with words of assured confidence — she recollected the 
fragment of cloth he had passionately flung from him, and which 
her affianced lover had contemptuously tossed into the stream. 
The name of " Dawes," detested as it had become to her, bore 
yet some strange association of comfort and hope. What secret 
lurked behind the twilight that had fallen upon her childish 
memories ? Deprived of the advice of North — to whom, a few 
weeks back, she would have confided her misgivings — she re- 
solved upon a project that, for her, was most distasteful. She 
would herself visit the gaol and judge how far the rumours of her 
husband's cruelty were worthy of credit. 

One sultry afternoon, when the Commandant had gone 
on a visit of inspection, Troke, lounging at the door of the New 
Prison, beheld, with surprise, the figure of the Commandant's 
lady. 

" What is it, mam ? " he asked, scarcely able to believe his eyes. 

" I want to see the prisoner Dawes." 

Troke's jaw fell. 

" See Dawes ? " he repeated. 

"Yes. Where is he?" 

Troke was preparing a lie. The imperious voice, and the 
clear, steady gaze, confused him. 



MR. NORTH SrEAKS. 435 



" He's here." 

" Let me see him." 

" He's — he's under punishment, mam." 

" What do you mean ? Are they flogging him ? p 

" No ; but he's dangerous, mam. The Commandant " 

"Do you mean to open the door or not, Mr. Troke?" 

Troke grew more confused. It was evident that he was 
most unwilling to open the door. " The Commandant gave 
strict orders " 

" Do you wish me to complain to the Commandant?'' cries 
Sylvia, with a touch of her old spirit, and jumping hastily at the 
conclusion that the gaolers were, perhaps, torturing the convict 
for their own entertainment. "Open the door at once! — at 
once ! " 

Thus commanded, Troke, with a hasty growl of its " being no 
affair of his, and he hoped Mrs. Frcre would tell the captain how 
it happened," flung open the door of a cell on the right hand of 
the doorway. It was so dark that, at first, Sylvia could dis- 
tinguish nothing but the outline of a framework, with something 
stretched upon it that resembled a human body. Her first 
thought was that the man was dead, but this was not so — he 
groaned. Her eyes, accustoming themselves to the gloom, 
began to see what the "punishment" was. Upon the floor 
was placed an iron frame about six feet long, and two and 
a half feet wide, with round iron bars, placed transversely, 
about twelve inches apart. The man she came to seek was 
bound in a horizontal position upon this frame, with his neck 
projecting over the end of it. If he allowed his head to hang, 
the blood rushed to his brain, and suffocated him, while the 
effort to keep it raised strained every muscle to agony pitch. 
His face was purple, and he foamed at the mouth. Sylvia 
uttered a cry. " This is no punishment ; it's murder ! Who 
ordered this?" 

" The Commandant," said Troke, sullenly. 

" I don't believe it. Loose him !" 

" I daren't ma'am," said Troke. 

" Loose him, I say ! Hailey !— you, sir, there ! " The noise 
had brought several warders to the spot. " Do you hear me ? 
Do you know who I am ? Loose him, I say ! " In her eager- 
ness and compassion, she was on her knees by the side of the 
infernal machine, plucking at the ropes with her delicate fingers. 



436 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

" Wretches, you have cut his flesh ! He is dying ! Help ! 
You have killed him !" 

The prisoner, in fact, seeing this angel of mercy stooping over 
him, and hearing close to him the tones of a voice that for seven 
years he had heard but in his dreams, had fainted. Troke and 
Hailey, alarmed by her vehemence, dragged the stretcher out 
into the light, and hastily cut the lashings. Dawes rolled off 
like a log, and his head fell against Mrs. Frere. Troke roughly 
pulled him aside, and called for water. Sylvia, trembling with 
sympathy, and pale with passion, turned upon the crew. " How 
long has he been like this ? " 

" An hour," said Troke. 

" A lie ! " said a stern voice at the door. " He has been there 
nine hours !" 

" Wretches ! " cried Sylvia, " you shall hear more of this. 

Oh, oh ! I am sick !"— she felt for the wall—" I— I ." North 

watched her with agony on his face, but did not move. " I 

faint. I " — she uttered a despairing cry that was not without 

a touch of anger. " Mr. North ! do you not see ? Oh ! Take 
me home — take me home !" and she would have fallen across 
the body of the tortured prisoner had not North caught her in 
his arms. 

Rufus Dawes, awaking from his stupor, saw, in the midst of 
a sunbeam which penetrated a window in the corridor, the 
woman who came to save his body supported by the priest who 
came to save his soul ; and staggering to his knees, he stretched 
out his hands with a hoarse cry. Perhaps something in the 
action brought back to the dimmed remembrance of the Com- 
mandant's wife the image of a similar figure stretching forth its 
hands to a frightened child in the mysterious far-off time. She 
started, and pushing back her hair, bent a wistful, terrified gaze 
upon the face of the kneeling man, as though she would fain 
read there an explanation of the shadowy memory which 
haunted her. It is possible that she would have spoken, but 
North — thinking the excitement had produced one of those 
hysterical crises which were common to her — gently drew her, 
still gazing, back towards the gate. The convict's arms fell, and 
an undefinable presentiment of evil chilled him as he beheld the 
priest — emotion pallid in his cheeks — slowly draw the fair young 
creature from out the sunlight into the grim shadow of the heavy 
archway. For an instant the gloom swallowed them, and it 



MR. NORTH SPEAKS. 437 



seemed to Dawes that the strange wild man of God had in that 
instant become a man of Evil — blighting the brightness and the 
beauty of the innocence that clung to him. For an instant — and 
then they passed out of the prison archway into the free air of 
heaven — and the sunlight glowed golden on their faces. 

" You are ill," said North. " You will faint. Why do you 
look so wildly?" 

" What is it ? " she whispered, more in answer to her own 
thoughts than to his question — "what is it that links me to 
that man ? What deed — what terror — what memory ! I tremble 
with crowding thoughts, that die ere they can whisper to me. 
Oh, that prison ! " 

" Look up ; we are in the sunshine." 

She passed her hand across her brow, sighing heavily, as one 
awaking from a disturbed slumber — shuddered, and withdrew 
her arm from his. North interpreted the action correctly, and 
the blood rushed to his face. " Pardon me, you cannot walk 
alone ; you will fall. I will leave you at the gate." 

In truth she would have fallen had he not again assisted her. 
She turned upon him eyes whose reproachful sorrow had almost 
forced him to a confession, but he bowed his head and held 
silence. They reached the house, and he placed her tenderly 
in a chair. " Now you are safe, madam, I will leave you." 

She burst into tears. " Why do you treat me thus, Mr. 
North? What have I done to make you hate me?" 

" Hate you ! " said North, with trembling lips. " Oh, no, I 
do not — do not hate you. I am rude in my speech, abrupt in 
my manner. You must forget it, and — and me" 

A horse's feet crashed upon the gravel, and an instant after 
Maurice Frere burst into the room. Returning from the Cas- 
cades, he had met Troke, and learned the release of the 
prisoner. Furious at this usurpation of authority by his wife, 
his self-esteem wounded by the thought that she had witnessed 
his mean revenge upon the man he had so infamously wronged, 
and his natural brutality enhanced by brandy, he had made for 
the house at full gallop, determined to assert his authority. 
Blind with rage, he saw no one but his wife. "What the 
devil's this I hear ? You have been meddling in my business 1 
You release prisoners ! You " 

" Captain Frere 1 " said North, stepping forward to assert the 
restraining presence of a stranger. Frere started, astonished at 



438 HIS NATURAL LIFE. 

the intrusion of the chaplain. Here was another outrage of his 
dignity, another insult to his supreme authority. In its passion, 
his gross mind leapt to the worst conclusion. 

" You here, too ! What do you want here — with my wife ! 
This is your quarrel, is it ?" His eyes glanced wrathfully from 
one to the other ; and he strode towards North. " You infernal 
hypocritical lying scoundrel, if it wasn't for your black coat, 
I'd " 

" Maurice ! " cried Sylvia, in an agony of shame and terror, 
striving to place a restraining hand upon his arm. He turned 
upon her with so fiercely infamous a curse, that North, pale with 
righteous rage, seemed prompted to strike the burly ruffian to 
the earth. For a moment, the two men faced each other, and 
then Frere, muttering threats of vengeance against each and 
all — convicts, gaolers, wife, and priest — flung the suppliant 
woman violently from him, and rushed from the room. She 
fell heavily against the wall, and as the chaplain raised her, he 
heard the hoof-strokes of the departing horse. 

" Oh ! " cried Sylvia, covering her face with trembling hands, 
" let me leave this place ! " 

North, enfolding her in his arms, strove to soothe her with 
incoherent words of comfort. Dizzy with the blow she had 
received, she clung to him sobbing. Twice he tried to tear 
himself away, but had he loosed his hold she would have fallen. 
He could not hold her — bruised, suffering, and in tears — thus 
against his heart, and keep silence. In a torrent of agonised 
eloquence the story of his love burst from his lips. "Why 
should you be thus tortured ? " he cried. " Heaven never willed 
you to be mated to that boor — you, whose life should be all sun- 
shine. Leave him — leave him. He has cast you off. We 
have both suffered. Let us leave this dreadful place — this 
isthmus between earth and hell ! I will give you happiness." 

" I am going," she said,